Jun 21, 2009

Some things are so weird they simply become wonderful.

We took the kids to the Rutland agricultural show the other weekend, itself a jolly experience in English eccentricity set in the grounds of Burley House where farmers and all their support companies show off the best they have now and the best they used to have. As we walked round looking at prize bulls, the dentist’s stall, the harrier simulator, the goats’ tent, and the vintage tractors (one owner was telling me how he’d bought his in 1936 and used it ploughing fields all through the war –which makes him how old?) there was music playing the whole time. As always when it’s going on in the background you know the tune but can’t quite place it. Then we arrived in front of the organ itself, a behemoth dating back a hundred years or so, which is so big it only just fits on to the back of a 40ton truck. There was a steam traction engine parked next to it, puffing away to power the beast, and that was when I finally recognized the tune: Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell. You just can’t make this stuff up.

All of which has precious little to do with Science Fiction. Not directly anyway, but it’s a nice lesson in technological longevity. In an age where starflight is commonplace, will people really be equally proud and nostalgic about listening to their great great great great granddad’s iPod? That’s if it still works, which I somehow doubt. But of such small details is the future made a little bit more believable.

Some good news from Mrs H’s point of view, the fruit cage frame that I built three years ago when we revamped the garden has now got the netting on in time for this summer’s crop, so for once we’ll be able to eat the berries before the birds get to them all. I’m going to tell you what I told her, that it took me this long to get round to it because I’ve been so busy writing the books. You believe that, right?

Long time readers of this blog might recall the May 2008 entry, on my trip to America last year I took a moment off in New York to buy a knitting kit for my friend Rebecca. Well finally(!) a year later it’s been knitted (if that’s the term. Created? Stitched? Assembled? Woven?). And you can check it out on the Wed May 6th entry of http://poshyarns.blogspot.com/. If you’re not familiar with the world of craft blogging, welcome (see this blog’s opening sentence). In Rebecca’s favour, she can knit these things faster than I can complete a fruit cage.

Sadly, Albacon 2010, which I’d been invited to as a guest, is now cancelled. A sign of the economic times, not enough people had signed up so the committee didn’t have much choice. Hopefully it will resurrect in another form at a later date. However, if all goes well I’ll be appearing at a couple of largish UK conventions next year. When everything’s confirmed it’ll be on the website so watch this space.

Now over the half-way stage on Evolutionary Void, and with the end in sight I’m undergoing the usual mood-swings that make writers so popular with their families. As always I oscillate between knowing that it’s so awful that nobody is going to read a word of it, and rehearsing my Booker prize acceptance speech. Once it’s delivered I’ll calm down. Probably. Thankfully I know this is a relatively common occurrence for writers, perhaps it’s that level of paranoia which keeps us chained to the desk week after week endlessly redrafting to try and get the prose just so. Or we could simply be naturally neurotic and try and excuse ourselves with pointless displacement activity. Who knows.

I’ve also met several people over the last couple of months who’ve told me they go on the various sites and read the blog. One of them had even googled me. Such encounters always leave me grasping for something coherent to say. I guess I’m back to the author paranoia of the above paragraph, but what always seems to come out of my mouth on such occasions is : Oh no, you didn’t do that, did you? It’s bad enough that people (mainly reviewers) think they know me so well because they’ve read my fiction, but this is a slice of the real me. So that just confirms I’m paranoid and now apparently shy with it. Oh great.

Still, to overcome such deficiencies of the psyche, Mrs H and I actually went out a few times by ourselves in the evening this last month, which was a nostalgic glimpse of our pre-kids life. Only another fourteen years to go, and they’ll have left home and we can do it all over again.

In the meantime, in search of more convenient entertainment, we’ve discovered the West Wing and are now on season three. And yes, I know how behind the times that is. But to counter with something up to date I did go on a boys’ night to see the new Star Trek film. Adam Roberts on his Punkadiddle site has reviewed it in a far more eloquent and insightful way than I ever would. So I’m just going to say that while sitting watching it with brain in neutral it’s a great visual treat. Even then I took issue with the extraordinarily casual way it treats genocide. And as for the plot holes...

Current firm kids’ DVD favourite is Madagascar Two, with Felix restricting himself to a mere three viewings per day. Consequently as a family we now know the lyrics for the I Like To Move It Move It song off by heart. But I do admit to liking the penguins, easily the best thing in it.

As for music, something of a revelation. I saw Taylor Swift on Jools Holland one evening, and went out and bought her Fearless album the very next day. Her music is way too young and trendy for someone my age, but until the fashion police come knocking I’m just going to play it anyway. That is, I’d like to, but someone seems to have stolen the album out of my car’s CD player. When the suspect was interrogated she replied: but you already copied it onto your iTunes. Well yes, but that’s not the point. Mine!

Peter F. Hamilton
June 2009

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