Hal’s Experiment

30 09 2009

I though I’d draw your attention, if I may, to Hal Duncan’s experiment over at Notes From The Geek Show.

Hal is experimenting with sidestepping the traditional route to market (via publisher) and going straight to the audience. Hal will publish Scruffian’s Stamp (a teaser is on the post linked to above) if he recieves donations amounting to $150 and if he doesn’t reach that amount all donors (horrible word but I’m in a hurry) will receive a PDF version.

The publishing model being tried is not news because plenty of people have tried this and usually this is met by a roll of the eyes and a comment about the standards of self-publishing…

See: you’re doing it right now…

No, not you lot who know who Hal is, the other lot. (And yes: I know you’re now a rather small group, I’m working on the stats issue.)…

I digress.

The point I am making in a very long winded way, is that the experiment is of interest because Hal has already achieved that writerly milestone of editorial validation, having published two books via a mainstream publisher, the cubist fantasies Vellum and Ink respectively. I can’t speak for Ink (it’s still on my shelf – I try to prolong the anticipation with sequals) but Vellum really is very impressive: ambitious in scope and executed with flare.

For this reason I’m both interested to see how Hal gets on with this approach and would urge you to donate.*

I’ve set my stall out as an admirer of Hal’s work before, and a review of Vellum will probably appear in the next few weeks, but I’d also encourage you to pick up copies of his books. You won’t regret it.

* As I will be when the dayjob ponies up next month.





Stats

30 09 2009

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given posting frequency, my blog stats have dropped off a cliff recently.

However, I’ve been blogging for quite sometime now and I’ve been through blips in output before and they’ve never been this severe: i.e. where the stats have essentially dropped back to the level they were at when I first started this experiment. It’s also sudden: like someone flicked a switch.

At present I have two theories:

1. For some reason I have fallen out of, or been dropped down, Google’s index.

Or…

2. WordPress.com have either had problems with their servers (leading to 1.) or their stats engine has encountered some problems.

My secondary stats engine (sitemeter) does show a fall, albeit a less severe one, and so presently I am leaning towards number one although the support forum for wordpress does suggest that several other people are having problems. Ditto Google Webmaster tools – I can’t see anything obvious other than them taking away my ability to request a given crawl rate (annoying).

Is anyone else seeing a problem? Have you had any issues getting to the site?

Of course there is a silver lining, if I am unable to resolve the issue then I may well use this as a prompt to go self-hosted because my historical traffic was a big part of why I haven’t done so already. Being self-hosted gives quite a large range of options, the possibility of proper analytics when trying to sort out stuff like this and the option of generating some income.

It’s a thought anyway.





Photos

29 09 2009

G has some photos up on her site of Bristolcon.

Regular readers will know that my better half is a talented photographer. Pop over and take a look round.

The Bristolcon photos are here: http://www.gmorgan-photography.co.uk/portfolio72059.html





Review: Why does E=MC²?

28 09 2009

Why Does E=MC2In my experience non-fiction books come in two categories: mind-blowingly fascinating or eye-wateringly crap. There is very little in between. Thankfully, Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw’s book is squarely in the fascinating camp.

The concept of the book, unsrprisingly, is to take the question Why does E=MC²? And why does it matter? as a starting point for explaining why Einstein’s famous theory is so important and – as the authors are at pains to stress – why it is so elegant. This involves a tour through the history of physics and some of its most important theories on the way to General Relativity. It’s a slim volume with a tight goal but does it succeed?

This is one of those science books you wish you got given when you were in school, written with a clear passion for the subject and a gentle, clear prose style that complements the author’s goal of illuminating Einstein’s theorem.  The principle challenge of the book is to stay on subject because, due to the nature of the theory, it is possible to go off on lots of interesting tangents. An admirable job is done of avoiding this trap whilst still including plenty of interesting asides that add to the understanding.

It is the nature of physics that it is extremely difficult to refer to more interesting theories and laws without referring to formula and mathematics. This is troublesome as mathematics is usually the aspect of physics that turns most people off and this provides something of a quandary for the writers. For the most part they handle this well with a series of well-crafted explanations of the mathematics involved but I’d be lying if I said I followed all of it, particularly the Standard Model of Particle Physics. It should be noted this may say more about my mathematical ability than the authors’ explanatory skills.

I thoroughly enjoyed Why does E=MC²? As a basic primer on Einstein’s theory of relativity it serves its purpose and moreover is an enjoyable read. I recommend it for anyone with a desire to understand a little bit more about physics.





Weekend

27 09 2009

I just got back after a weekend back in Wales.

My brother’s birthday was this weekend. It seems to be quite rare these days that family birthdays fall on days where I can actually be there and so I wanted to make the most of it. We had a lovely family lunch and seeing everyone – even my sister who is in Sydney courtesy of Skype – was really good. I can’t get over how much my niece has changed in eight weeks.

As we were only an hour(ish) away, we also popped over to Bristol for the appropriately entitled Bristolcon. It was a small but enjoyable event on the Saturday afternoon and evening with some interesting panels. It was good to catch up with friend, and fellow Friday Flash Fictioneer, Gareth L Powell and his wife, Becky; to chat again with Colin Harvey and Terry Martin; and to meet some new people. I particularly enjoyed Al Reynolds’ talk on hard SF and the need to make it weirder.

Now back to the graft, I have me own novel to finish.





Updatery

14 09 2009

Thought I’d best pop in and say hello.

I’ve been a bit snowed under of late. Since the return from the holiday I’ve been trialing an improved way of working that consolidates some of the experiments from the first half of the year and puts the writing over and above certain things like the blog. It doesn’t mean the blog won’t be updated but that it might be a little less frequent than it has been at points in the past. I hope to get up to three posts a week minimum at some point but this does relay on me having enough weekend time to write the posts up front rather than as I go.

On the writing front I’m pleased to report things are going well. I have been – touch wood – writing regularly again for a month and this is evidenced by the fact I am sixty percent of the way through the final draft of The Scarred God. I also have a couple of short stories now going through the draft progress. I will let you know about the changes I made to get back on track once I’m sure they’ve stuck. I really don’t want to jinx it at this point.

On the submissions front I have been woefully slack. I have one story still under consideration but most of the rest of my inventory is lying forlorn on my hard drive. I need to get on this. They are doing no one any good where they are at the moment. I shall be getting on this very soon.

Other than that life is fairly mundane. After the first part of the year, I’m fine with that.

How are you?





Review: Franklyn

3 09 2009

franklyn

Britain doesn’t make many films anymore let alone Science Fiction or Fantasy but that wasn’t the reason I decided to watch Franklyn. In truth, it sounded like an interesting film with the kind of narrative play that I tend to like a great deal.

Franklyn follows several characters across two worlds. In Meanwhile City, a dystopian world ruled by a kaleidoscope of religious sects, the masked vigilante Preest searches for his nemesis, a man known only as the Individual. Nursing a vendetta for the death of a girl Preest has a clear purpose: to kill the Individual. In London, Emilia is a fucked up art student struggling to put her past behind her and find her creative centre without killing herself in the process. Milo’s been stood up by his fiancé and can’t stop dwelling on his childhood sweetheart. While Esser trawls the streets and hospitals for his runaway son ignored by his estranged ex-wife and holding onto the last thing he has: his faith.

There are many things to like about Franklyn. The cast includes some standout talent including Bernard Hill (Lord of the Rings, Boys from the Blackstuff) and Eva green (Casino Royale). Even adequate performers like Ryan Phillippe. The set design for Meanwhile City is interesting, if confused, and sections of the film’s photography are very nicely done. The film’s central conceit, about the nature of memory and reality, is an interesting one with a great deal of promise. And so the whole should be greater than the sum of these parts?

Alas, no.

The film falls short of its promise. On reflection, I think this is at least in part to do with the decision to follow four lead characters over four distinct story arcs in a ninety-minute film. It’s simply too much for this length of film and inevitably it makes it difficult to identify with or feel sympathy for Milo, for example. This also makes it far too easy to work out the film’s somewhat inevitable climax that falls like a damp squib rather than an emotionally satisfying close.

This is the most obvious symptom of a good idea that has not been thoroughly thought through. On delving closer there is further evidence: the logic of Meanwhile City is not clear and the story arc that takes place there is weak due to an onerous flashback. In general the transitions between the two worlds are handled badly in away that only the most forgiving audience would characterise as planned. But these are not its greatest sin.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of the truncated running time but the film falls foul of the greatest of sins: logical consistency. Be it fantasy, horror, SF, slipstream or whatever: it should be logically consistent within the framework of the story. There simply isn’t enough build around the hospital cleaner or Milo’s childhood sweetheart for their presence to feel like anything other than a clunking deus ex machina.

For all of its many failings Franklyn is a bold and brave attempt at an interesting idea. Writers and directors will find a useful lesson in the flexibility of narrative while more general viewers can enjoy a solid set of performances and some interesting cinematography.

Worth a view but don’t expect to be blown away.








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