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29 November 2011

And what I wonder is if some of them think at all. In Toronto Canada some schools have the kilt as school uniform for girls. Apparently many of the girls hitch their kilts up well above the knee contravening school policy and public decency. So the school board authorities (covering a number of schools in their district) are considering banning the kilt. Huh?
What do they plan to replace it with? Tunics and dresses can just as easily be hitched up. If they are thinking of putting the girls into trousers there’ll then be the option of wearing them as low-riders, or so tight they appear painted onto adolescent buttocks.
What they need is not a change in uniform, but school reinforcement of the already-in-place rules on skirt length. And get the parents onside with that. A girl should know that if the school punishes her for disobeying the rules, her parent/s will do the same. But in the end let’s have some common sense about this. The authorities may also have to realise, that short of a guard allocated to each girl so long as she is in school uniform, some laws are impossible to police everywhere at all times. Girls will be girls. I know – I was one.

a collection of the ‘Patrick Petrella” stories published in hardcover by H&S in 1977, and reviewed by Lyn McConchie.

I’m taking it easy on the reading side by rereading all the books I have by a favourite author. Michael Gilbert was a brilliant writer, he produced a string of books and story collections for over 60 years (starting in 1946) none of which was a dud and which range from very good to brilliant. He wrote mysteries/police procedurals/crime/thrillers and spy stories. They aren’t the books and stories you see too many of nowadays, with cardboard characters, ultra violence, sadistic sex, and damn all plot. Where the only “mystery” is how many women will be kidnapped/beaten/raped/tortured and murdered before the hero finds the bad guy.
Gilbert’s characters were real people, often trapped in real situations, and his books hold up despite the earliest being published in the 40’s and 50’s. One of his series characters was Patrick Petrella, son of a high-ranking Spanish policemen, and an upper-class English girl. Patrick joined the London police force and in a series of books and short stories published over decades, policed the streets of his city, married, sired children, rose through the ranks, and finally retired. Petrella comes across as a real person as do his comrades around him and the criminals with which they deal. He can exhibit flashes of humour or anger, and in one story, a lethal rage when his small son is kidnapped to put pressure on Patrick. The stories about him in this collection have plots that range from the trivial (Rough Justice – the undoing of a garage owner) to by-the-throat-pathos (A Thoroughly Nice Boy) to the savage. (Why Tarry the Wheels of His Chariot.)
And the author knew what he was writing about. He was a lawyer in London (Raymond Chandller was one of his clients) and over a long life (Gilbert died at 93 in 2006 and several of his collections were published posthumously) he saw personally the changes in crime, the law, and police forces, that he detailed in his writing. If you like a very well-constructed story, characters that are completely believable, plots that are logical and work that is beautifully written, look no further. You’ll have a fair choice, his books if you count collections number over 40. Many remain in print (others appear in used book’s shops) and if you tire of the over-violent and graphic, go out and buy a Gilbert. He has few equals and none whom I would accept as his superior.

I was about to start on the computer when I heard an odd regular thudding sound. Wondering what that was I plodded outside and looked about – to see a tractor, two guys, and a stack of fence-posts. Yes, the fences on my neighbour’s small place, and on mine, are being upgraded, or added to. Two more gates so we can shift the stock about more easily, and the fences improved or expanded so that said stock is less likely/able, to crawl through and turn up just where they weren’t wanted. I notice that our two steers, Caramel and Black Coffee are engrossed in events, leaning over their fence to watch. Reminds me of someone who once said “I love work, I could watch it for hours.”

Yes, the ghost tale I mentioned an update or two ago as being written, was completed and sold. Arafel will be out very late next year in Whortleberry Press’s Christmas anthology and, as it’s a ‘cat story’ it will also be eligible for the Cat Writer Assoc.’s Muse Medallion in 2013. Now if I can only sell another cat story before mid-year, that’ll be eligible in 2012.
If you write stories/books about cats, you should consider joining the Association. They have a regular newsletter, a website, yearly awards, and a mentor system. For the quite small yearly sub. you get a good lineup for your money. Find them at

J. T. McIntosh (born Feb. 14, 1925 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland) was a pseudonym used by Scottish writer and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor. MacGregor used the pseudonym for all his science fiction work, which was the majority of his output, though he did publish some books under his own name.
I think that his book, One in Three Hundred, is his best work. It appeared in 1954, and was reissued by the UK SF Book club two years later in hardcover. It’s in three novellas, and may originally have appeared in one of the pulpzines although I can find no record of that, it may alternatively have been written that way in hopes of pulp publications and when his first two books sold he then sold One in Three Hundred as a book without further attempts to sell it in sections. In section one of the book One in Three Hundred Bill Easson has the unenviable task of choosing ten people to live from a town of three thousand. The sun is about to flare and scientists have warned that everything on earth will die, however Mars will not only survive, it would improve and it will be possible to live there. By a combination of desperate effort, and a fair amount of fudging the truth and stretching possibilities, Governments announce that they can save one in three hundred of the population. So Bill is sent to Simsville to choose those whom he will take in his tiny lifeslip (spaceship.) This section is riveting, how would people behave under these circumstances? How would someone, a fairly ordinary man, manage to choose who is to survive and by what criteria? What will sway his choices and how will those in the town, knowing his choice is their life or death, behave towards others, or towards him?
The second section is the journey to Mars, looking at the compromises the passengers must make, (the discussion on morality is amusing now, but in the 1950s it would have been valid then) gradually Bill realizes there is a major problem that could mean everyone in the lifeslip will die despite their apparent escape. How that is dealt with both physically and emotionally, as the passengers understand the dilemma, is psychologically believable and still relevant.
Section three is wryly clever. Over and over it shows how basic human nature hasn’t and isn’t changed even by a catastrophe that’s wiped out all but twenty thousand people. They become tired of cramped conditions, poor food, nothing more then water to drink, inadequate clothing, unrelenting hard and dirty work, and uncongenial companions and they do silly, desperate, dangerous, or illegal things. There is huge pressure on the surviving women to pair off even temporarily and breed. So much so that rape, so long as the woman isn? beaten or otherwise injured as well, appears to be winked at. And savagely beating a man who doesn? want to labour fourteen hours a day under appalling conditions is not only condoned but ordered. The final section shows that people are people; on earth, Mars, or anywhere else and there will always be those who are wolves, sheep, jackals, or sheepdogs, and each will act according to his nature even if temporarily, s/he’s appeared in different garb for the duration of the worst of the emergency. Even close to sixty years after this book was written it stacks up quite well. That’s because the author looked at people and not just at technology, and the nature of people changes a lot more slowly, something for later SF writers to consider.
Film credit
Along with John Mather, J. T. McIntosh is credited for the screenplay for the color feature film Satellite in the Sky (1956). He has not published anything since 1980.

Partial bibliography
World out of Mind (1953)
Born Leader (1954)
One in Three Hundred (1954)
The Fittest (1955)
Incident Over the Pacific (1960)
Two Hundred Years to Christmas (1961)
The Million Cities (1963)
The Noman Way (1964)
Out of Chaos (1965)
Take a Pair of Private Eyes (1968) This has been listed in a number of places as a book and it may have been published in 1968 as a TV series tie-in. However it was originally a 6 episode UK TV series. Derek Fowlds (Heartbeat, Yes Minister, et al) starred as the husband of a husband and wife team of private detectives. The series appeared on BBC2 from April 10th to May 15th 1966. For those who like Modesty Blaise, note that the series was created by Peter O’onnell.
Time for a Change (1967) aka Snow White and the Giants
Six Gates from Limbo (1968 novel)
Transmigration (1970 novel)
A Coat of Blackmail 1970)
Flight from Rebirth (1971 novel)
The Space Sorcerers (1972)
The Cosmic Spies (1972)
Galactic Takeover Bid (1973)
Ruler of the World (1976)
Norman Conquest 2066 (1977)
This is The Way The World Begins (1977)
A Planet Called Utopia (1979)

Short Stories
The Curfew Tolls 1950 (Astounding)
Machine Made (1951)
“Selection,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1955
“You Were Right, Joe” short story, Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1957
“Unit.” New Worlds, 1957
“Tenth Time Around,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1959
“The Wrong World,” Galaxy Science Fiction, December 1960
“Planet of Fakers,” Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1966

a number of McIntosh’s works are available here and there in free downloads.

21 November 2011

well, not quite, but it certainly feels as if I should have been. All yesterday was screaming gales, found a lull and even then had trouble accessing my email and replying. Quit in the end and waited until today. Worse yet, the forecast is that we may have really bad gales back again Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I loathe that. I can handle the rain, snow, cold, and even the full heat in summer. But I hate the howling gales.
So do the livestock. Thunder comes in from his cat park with ruffled fur and an indignant look, the hens are all huddled in the hay shed, the sheep in the woodshed, the calves in the lee of the house, and I had earplugs in most of the day. NOT looking forward to their resumption and really hoping that the forecast is wrong.

Yes, I opened my email the other day and discovered that I’d been awarded the MUSE Medallion by the (International) Cat Writers Association for my short story – Opener of Doors – published on the Hazard Cat website August last year. Judge’s comment: “I was hooked from the first page. May all of us have a cat to plead for us at our own crossing. Indeed, no one can say ‘No” to a determined cat.”
2011 has been a great year thus far.

12 November 2011

I find that at this time of the year a lot of anthology editors are clearing their desks, so that it can be a good time (Sept/Oct.)to get submissions to them. At least this seems to be working for me. A 2012 Halloween anthology has just accepted my ghost story, The Mailman. And it may be the influence of Xmas, but the other night I sat down and wrote another ghost tale that, once I’ve tidied it, I’ll submit to the same market for a different anthology.

By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Published by Dell, paperback dated May 2009.
reviewed by Shari Aarlton.

I thought this was a brilliant book, gentle, sensitive, loving, witty, and sweet in turns while tossing in all sorts of literary excerpts and allusions.
It starts with an author who receives a letter a year after World War II, sent by a pig-farmer on the English Channel Island of Guernsey asking about writing by Charles Lamb. She replies, starts getting letters from other people who were on the island during the German Occupation, and who belonged to this society – which had started as a way to get out of possible trouble with the German curfew.
Gradually in the letters that flow between the author and what have become her friends on the island, she learns the story of the occupation, and of Elizabeth Mckenna whose character holds this book together. Finally she flies to the island to visit, meets Elizabeth’s little daughter, Dawsey the pig-farmer, and all those who have been writing to her. The outcome changes her life.
The book bounces back and forth between tales of the German Occupation of Guernsey, and the current day (actually 1946) when the author is writing and receiving the letters. You get to know her, her family and friends, and the people of the island in a series of letters that are totally believable.
I loved this so much that I looked up the author, and was really sorry to find that she died just about the time that this book was published. And it was a long time coming. Ms. Shaffer was stranded on Guernsey during a visit in 1976 or 1980. (I saw both dates quoted) and while there she read a book about the occupation of the Channel islands during WWII. Years later her book club teased her into writing a book, and this was the result.
Like Lyn, I often look at an author who has written one or only a handful of terrific books and then died, and wonder what other work they’d have done if they’d lived longer, and I think that Mary Ann Shaffer’s death may have cheated us all out of some wonderful writing.

This is the pen name for Eileen Joyce (Joy) Rutter, born January 13th 1945 in the UK. Joy Chant is best known for her three fantasy books in The Vandarei saga. Chant’s first book, RED MOON AND BLACK MOUNTAIN appeared in England in 1971 from Allen and Unwin and won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award the next year. (It was published in 1972 in America by Ballentine Books.)This was followed by The Gray Mane of Morning (1977) and When Voiha Wakes (in 1983).
The thing that caught my attention was Chant’s explanation that the Vandarei books grew out of her childhood world based on imagined games and elaborate legends that she told to herself about her world. This world started when she was around six or seven judging by her account, and, for another ten years, continued to settle into what it would become. Red Moon, Black Mountain was marketed as a book for children although it was very readable by adults, but since the main characters were all children, apparently Allen and Unwin decided to list it this way. It’s what I think of as a ‘sidestep into another world’ book, involving and interesting and in a fully realized world. But it was the second in the Vandarei sagas that I found the best of her work.
Gray Mane of Morning was runner-up for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1981 and placed tenth in the Locus Poll Award. It is a depiction of the struggle between a settled people and a nomadic one, and it mirrored in Vandarei many of the genocides enacted in our world under such circumstances. The Khentorei are horse-riding nomads whose tribes inhabit the realm of the plains. The Kalnat, known as The Golden People, have a city, Malde. Those nomad tribes that camp on the plain’s edge nearest Malde pay tribute to the city’s rulers. This has led the Kalnat to believe themselves vastly superior, and entitled to take what they want from the nomads.
Mor’anh and his sister Nai are priest and priestess of the Alnei tribe, and when they are two of those who go to pay tribute Nai is seen by one of the Kalnat nobles and forcibly taken back to the city as a sexual slave to the young noble, this despite the fact that even under his own laws he is not entitled to do so and she is the ‘Luck’ of her tribe. Mor’anh subsequently meets her, is captured, beaten, and escapes with the aid of his sister’s friend, the young half-sister of Nai’s owner, and who who later finds sanctuary with the tribe, telling Mor’anh that her brother murdered Nai’s baby.
The story continues with the slow growing disillusionment of Mor’anh over the tribe’s relationship with the city folk, his inheriting the leadership of his tribe when the Kalnat murder his father, and his decision that the tribe will refuse to pay tribute ever again.
The nobles of Malde decide to punish the nomads, but they have overestimated their own fighting abilities, and the books ends with the destruction of Malde’s army and of the city, Nai escapes the burning city to return to her lover, her brother, and her tribe.
There are a number of threads in this work, it is by no means a simple straight-line tale. I find it a pity that Chant never did more than the three books in this fantasy series, the background is a richly realised world, with fascinating people and a really wide capacity for a number of books to be set within it.
Chant’s third in this series appeared five years later. When Voiha Wakes, won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in 1984.
Chant’s other major work is The High Kings (1983), illustrated by George Sharp, designed by David Larkin and edited by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is a reference work on the King Arthur legends and the Matter of Britain incorporating retellings of the legends. The High Kings, took second place in the Locus Poll Award, won the 1984 World Fantasy Special Award for Professional Work and was also a nominee of the Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book.
Joy Chant has also written numerous articles on fantasy fiction.

Fantasy novels
House of Kendreth series
Red Moon and Black Mountain (1970)
The Grey Mane of Morning (1977)
When Voiha Wakes (1983)

The High Kings (1983, George Allen & Unwin) (with, Ian and Betty Ballantine, George Sharp and David Larkin, in collaboration), rev. ed. (1989, George Allen & Unwin)

Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers (1971)

Short stories (known)
“The Coming of the Starborn” (1983)

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