Tuesday, March 27, 2007


dub-a-dub-dub, du-dub-a-dub-dub,
da-dub-a-dub-dub, da-DUB-A-DUB-DUB,
da-dub-a-dub-dub, da-dub-a-dub-dub,
ooooh-weeeee-oooooooh, eeeee-woooh-eeeee...

Only four days to go.
My inner seven year old is hiding behind the sofa already.
(Then again, I was disappointed by most of the last series. But here's hoping for better things this time...)

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Electric Fire

Radio ga-ga, A kind of magic, I'm in love with my car, Tenement Funster, Ride the wild wind - five fantastic songs performed by Queen and written by Roger Taylor, the drummer out of Queen. And he wrote several other pretty good songs for Queen too.

But if you total them up, he wrote less than ten good songs in 20 years of being in Queen. This probably goes a long way to explaining why his solo albums are, erm, of variable quality.

Yesterday I listened to his 1998 solo album 'Electric Fire' for the first time since, well, 1998. Its really not that good. In fact, I'd go as far as to say its a bad album. It has few redeeming features.

In his solo career, Roger has managed to produce some good stuff - the title track of the Strange Frontier album is fantastic, Foreign Sand from 'Happiness?' (1994) is outstanding and Heaven for Everyone from 'Shove it' by 'The Cross' (a side project he had from 1987 to 1991) is great and was even re-made into a Queen song (using Freddie's vocals from 1988) in 1995.

But he suffers the same problem as many solo artists - a complete lack of quality control. I assume that when he was working on songs for Queen, one of the other members of the band would encourage him to work on the weaker parts of a song, etc. so that a masterpiece like Radio ga-ga could be crafted.

On his 1994 album, Happiness?, the music on most of the songs is great, but each song is generally let down by pretty bad lyrics. Even the best song, Foreign Sand, is let down by suggesting that the solution to all the world's problems is simply to 'say hello'...

But his 1998 album, Electric Fire, is bad both musically and lyrically. I have tried to find redeeming features in this album - I actually want to like it - but there aren't any, except for the outstanding backing vocals of Treanna Morris (now lead singer with Wiredaisies [website][myspace]). But backing vocals can't adequately redeem any song. Sorry. The CD goes back on the shelf for another decade...

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Marillion live song...

New Marillion album next month... I'm looking forward to it, but not desperate. The last album had some great songs on it but was a bit unfocused. Here's hoping the next will be better.

First track I've heard from the new album is ok:

Most Toys (Live)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


What is nothing?

If nothing can be defined, it has properties.

If it has properties, it must be something.

So what is nothing?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007


On the basis of only my name and my gender, the internet declared that I am this superhero:

Your Superhero Profile

Your Superhero Name is The Techni Sailor
Your Superpower is Telekinesis
Your Weakness is Cold Weather
Your Weapon is Your Water Crossbow
Your Mode of Transportation is Sleigh

I really would like a water crossbow though - that sounds cool!


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Mika - first listen...

I'm currently listening to the Mika album for the first time. I'm about half way through it and really enjoying it!

But then again I like The Darkness, The Feeling and the Scissor Sisters - so I clearly have an inclination to 70s influenced cheese.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lynyrd Skynyrd

I woke up this morning with the words of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song in my head. They were:
"I know a little
I know a little about it
I know a little
I know a little 'bout it
I know a little 'bout love
And baby I can guess the rest"
The chorus of the song 'I know a little' - originally from the album "Street Survivors" which was released just days before the plane crash that killed most of the band (NB the album sleve pictured here is the original for that album, but was replaced by one without flames shortly after the tragic accident).

I love that lyric! And words on this blog can't do justice to the cool guitar riff that follows the chorus. Track it down and enjoy. Its on loads of Lynyrd Skynyrd compilations.

For what its worth, I compiled myself a single disc CD compilation of my favourite Skynyrd songs, the track listing is as follows:
  1. Sweet home Alabama
  2. Simple man
  3. Tuesday's gone
  4. Gimme three steps
  5. Ballad of Curtis Loew
  6. Freebird
  7. The four walls of Railford
  8. I know a little
  9. Gimme back my bullets
  10. That smell
  11. Whiskey rock-a-roller
  12. I never dreamed
  13. Workin' for MCA
  14. Comin' home
  15. All I can do is write about it

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Jasper Fforde books

Having read a good few good reviews of these books, I finally got around to reading 'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde in the summer time last year. It is brilliant, I loved it. The action takes place in the 1980s in an alternative history where the Crimean war is still going on, airships are more common than planes, Wales is a republic, Swindon is an important town, and so on. The main character is called 'Thursday Next' (female) and many other characters in the story have equally off-the-wall names, my favourite being 'Braxton Hicks'. I loved the aspects of that book where we got to explore that strange alternative reality - airships, cloned dodos, 'Spec Ops' and all the weird and mysterious things they do. The book is also fantastically well written by someone who knows how to manipulate language to great comic effect, whilst still being very, very clever. Part of the plot involves our heroine and the main villain getting inside an early manuscript of 'Jane Eyre' and inadvertently changing the plot for the better. In this story it was important that the action took place in an early manuscript - from which all subsequent versions of the book were taken - because then all versions of the book would be changed. Anyway, I read through that book in a few days and rushed headlong into the next Thursday Next book...

'Lost in a good book' is also a good book, but I would shy away from using the word 'brilliant' to describe it. Certainly, the author's fantastic use of language and highly entertaining spin on literary classics continues, but I found the actual plot to be less interesting. Only one of the two main plot strands started in this book is resolved here, the other (more interesting) strand is left unresolved and is carried over to the next book. The plot strand that is resolved (the end of the world is averted) is resolved a bit too quickly and cleanly at the last minute to be satisfying. In this book we get to find out a bit more of the alternative Swindon, and we find out more about getting into fictional books, but the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first book. But as there was an unresolved plot, I rushed headlong into...

'The well of lost plots' picks up directly from the end of the previous book and basically leaves the unresolved plot from the last book totally unresolved throughout. The book ends and the only plot strand that I care about is still unresolved. Disappointing. The action in this book takes place almost entirely inside the 'Well of lost plots' - the unearthly repository of all the definitive versions of all books that have ever been written, or are in the process of being written, but have not been published. Here the characters in these books have independent lives of their own, etc. The main plot of the book is about the release of a new book 'operating system'. Its all a bit Microsoft really. I don't care! I like computers, I like books. One of the great things about books is that they are not computers! I don't want to read about an operating system for books. Basically I didn't care about 90% of the plot in this book. So, despite the ongoing, unresolved plot, I am in no rush to read the next book int he series. I may never read it. The storytelling is still done with great relish and joyous use of the English language, but a dull story well told is still a dull story. There are flashes of genius in there, I particularly liked the discussion of the "that that" and "had had" problem in literature, but I couldn't bring myself to care about the plot.

I'll read something by someone else next...

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Everyone has a book inside of them...

According to a Readers' Digest survey a few years ago, over 70% of people believe that 'everyone has a book inside of them'. Some years ago I had a conversation with a few friends (at least one of whom reads this blog; hello San) where we discussed this and I admitted that I had the bones of a story in my head. The story in question was a Narnia-like kids fantasy story and, when questioned about it I made the mistake of replying that 'my fantasy world isn't fully developed' - which resulted in a good few sniggers.

Anyway, the fantasy world has actually developed over the years and I now have a much more fully thought through novel idea. What I don't seem to have found is the time to actually put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) and actually write the thing. In a moment of extreme procrastination a few years ago, when I was supposed to be writing my PhD thesis, I actually did write the entire prologue and first chapter of that book, but never wrote any more. If I was to revisit it, I would almost certainly rewrite the entire thing from scratch.

Over the past few years, two other story ideas have formed in my head, although neither has been written in any form, and I'm not sure I am actually capable of doing the ideas justice. But since this blog is an airing ground for my private ideas, I thought I'd share the half-baked ideas with you, my somewhat restricted reading public, and see if you want to offer any thoughts or comments on my book ideas...

Story 1
This started out life as being a kids' fantasy, but as the idea has developed it has become much more of a 'young adult' novel, more in line with the tone and subject matter of the later Harry Potter books (which feature death, politics, hatred and snogging) than the Narnia stories. As yet the book has no title. The story follows two characters, the first is an eleven year old boy from Edinburgh who ends up in the fantasy world, the other is a nineteen year old student alchemist from the fantasy world who ends up in our world. The story follows each character, chapter about, as they find out about the world they find themselves in and, as is usual in these sort of stories, find out about themselves along the way. The story is deliberately episodic in nature and does (deliberately) adhere to several of the cliches of fantasy writing. Hopefully I would be able to subvert the cliches in an entertaining manner. The main problem I have with this story is how to keep the story of the alchemist in this world interesting. Most of the action happens in the fantasy world, but I want some to happen here too.

Story 2
This is another fantasy novel. Given that most of the books I read are fantasy, it is no surprise that most of the books I want to write are also fantasy. The idea of this book is a much more complicated one. The entire events of this story occur in a fantasy world, although I don't necessarily think that any magic occurs here. The benefit of setting a story in a fantasy world is that the reader has no presuppositions about what is real there.

In many ways the pattern for this book was inspired by 'The Lions of Al Rassan' by Guy Gavriel Kay - that book is set in a fantasy world, yet there is no magic in the book at all. In that story the main characters are from different religious groups, with different gods, but the reader has no pre-judged idea of whether there is or is not a god - it may be that all the gods are real, it may be that none are, it may be that only one is, but the reader does not know - and it turns out to be irrelevant to the story, but the reader doesn't know that at the outset. When reading a fantasy novel people expect real gods and magic...

Anyway, the concept behind this novel is that it is set in a reasonably small, back-water type town which is part of a larger empire. The town is ruled (or is it?) by a woman considered by some to be royalty, considered by others to be a witch, considered by herself to be something else entirely. Each chapter is told in first-person narrative by a different character in the story. Thus, it is told from within the belief system and presuppositions of that character. All the characters have different viewpoints and perhaps none of them are close to reality. The main point of the story is who is this woman? The final chapter is told from her point of view, so we finally find out (or do we? maybe she is deluded?). This is a tricky story to tell and I'm not sure I have the time or ability to actually do it well. Perhaps when I'm older.

There is a cliche in certain types of fantasy novels relating to maps. See, for example, the stories of David Eddings. Here the maps are important and he seems intent on taking the story through all the different countries and places on the maps that he has devised. My subversion of the map idea here is that each chapter starts with a map; not a map of how the world is, but rather a map of how the world is perceived by the narrator of that particular chapter. For example, the opening chapter is narrated by a young teenage boy, his map shows the town (provisionally named 'Stone') centrally on the map, with very little detail more than a day's journey away from the town. The chapter narrated by the merchant has a much more detailed map of the whole empire, and so on. In fact the whole novel idea more or less sprung from this concept.

Story 3
This is the story which I am actually most likely to work on. It is not a fantasy in the sense of the other two, but is not set in the real world either. It is more of an alternative history. The story is narrated in first person by an old man, writing to a younger audience. I think he is writing in about the year 2050, when he is over 100 years old and is on some form of life-support machine. He is recounting the days of his youth to anybody who has time to listen. The novel begins with a shocking opening line - which was basically the first thing I thought of and the basis for the whole story that unfolds thereafter. The opening line is:
"Although I was only five at the time, I can still clearly remember where I was and what I was doing on the day that God died."
From that opening, the narrator recounts the story of how 'research theologians' in California had conclusively proved the existence of God some years earlier and talks through all the subsequent discoveries they made about the nature of God over the next few years, before inadvertently killing him in 1950. The narrator also recounts the response of the religious and non religious people, first to the revelation that there definitely was a God, then to the revelation that he was dead. The story also recounts the events of world history between 1950 and 2050 in the light of the absence of God. Due to the scatter-brained character of the narrator, all this does not necessarily come in chronological order.

The book is more or less an exploration of some of the ideas that I have been expressing on my other blog (Confessions of a Doubting Thomas), although there is a story of self-discovery which unfolds in between the 'historical' narrative. There will also be some twists. By doing this as first-person narrative I can, once again, impose a prejudiced and not-entirely-accurate world view onto the narrator.

The book is provisionally entitled 'God of the gaps' as the narrator comments early on about the 'God of the gaps' type reasoning which was once used by atheists before God was proved, and how it only became apparent that 'some of the smallest gaps are the most important' after God died.

Maybe one day I'll be able to write one or more of these proplerly. But for now I'd appreciate any comments you may have on my ideas.

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