The Odd Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘books’

The new Idiosyncratica post is up…

Posted by That Other Mike on 15/07/2008

Go and read it!

Anyone wishing to join, please let us know.

Posted in books, Idiosyncratica | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A list of five

Posted by That Other Mike on 05/07/2008

It’s always nice when people do what I say… A less megalomanical way of saying that might be that it’s always nice when people take my advice, which is clearer but has an unfortunate rhyme.

It is flattering when people take my advice, particularly on things which aren’t necessarily a matter of good sense or judgement, like books or films. While I’m prone to throwing out reviews of various things I’ve seen and heard, I don’t automatically assume that people will take it seriously.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

My fiction and me – on being a writer and reader

Posted by That Other Mike on 01/07/2008

Before I get into my shtick about fiction, I’d just like to thank everyone who has decided to take part in our readers’ and writers’ group by joining Idiosyncratica. I’m sure we’ll all find it enjoyable and useful.

The topic we chose was “My fiction and me”, which I think is a nice and gentle opener. It may get more complex later on as we get into the swing of things and grow more confident as a group; then again, it might become easier for us to handle. We’ll see, anyway.

I’d like to start by talking about what I read. Ever since I was a young child, I’ve been an avid reader. Mainly, I think, because I am by nature quite shy; I have learned to overcome it and be more outgoing, but it is an act of will rather than nature.

My reading runs a wide range, although I am very much a fan of the 20th century in terms of what I read, probably because the 20th was the first century in which reading was not a pursuit only of the wealthy who had leisure time: it saw a huge variety of different genres explode onto the scene in a very short time, from the hardboiled noir of Chandler to the elegant visionary themes of Alfred Bester to the psychological mastery of Patricia Highsmith. The sheer volume of different books about different themes and by such different people are enough to make the 20th century my favourite.

On my bookshelf, Vernon God Little sits next to The Left Hand of Darkness and The Wasp Factory:I will read almost any genre, although I do have my limits and my favourites. I am always drawn to science fiction, perhaps because it so often offers a vision of better future, and to horror and the supernatural, my affection for which I’m almost scared to analyse! I tend to stay away from romance fiction and I often find myself turned off by modern literary fiction, which too often takes pretence and obfuscation and confuses them with profundity.

I also adore certain writers beyond all measure and will remain for ever loyal to them: Margaret Atwood, Patricia Highsmith, Ursula K. Le Guin, Iain Banks (M. or not!), for example. They have created utterly believable characters in backwoods America, apocalyptic futures or utopian worlds of wonder; they tell incredibly human stories set among grand vistas in space or among the claustrophobic nightmare of the 1950s small town.

That’s who I like to read. My writing is a different story. I write with hesitation and I really dislike the actual process of writing. It doesn’t come easily to me, and I’m never sure if anything I do is actually worth reading.

It’s not that I have trouble with story or plot – they arrive whole into my brain, with beginnings and endings and every event, all sketched in faint lines. What I have to do is fill in the colour and block out the shapes, which is what I find difficult.

As far as what I write goes, it mirrors my reading habits – I feel drawn to the supernatural and technologically magical, as well as the darker side of human habits and personalities. This makes me a little wary of showing stuff to people sometimes, and also a little disturbed about it: if I can come up with the most horrific things to happen to my characters, what does that say about me as an individual? I sometimes need to be reassured that it isn’t the mark of a psychopath to write psychopaths, but Lottie and Gary both assure me that isn’t the case. I am thus reassured 😀

Anyway, those are my reading and writing habits: my fiction and me.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Book and film recommendations

Posted by That Other Mike on 13/04/2008

From my recent reading and viewing: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in books, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Just a quick one right now…

Posted by That Other Mike on 26/01/2008

… because I have to do the vacuuming and put stuff in to wash and work out and make some dinner. *takes breath*

On the reading list this week:
When True Night Falls, by Celia Friedman. Part 2 of the Coldfire Trilogy, which I am enjoying a great deal. I highly recommend it; it’s a blend of scifi and fantasy.

Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, by bell hooks.

Coming later today – nuclear power iz teh suck.

Posted in books | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Recent, current and near future reading

Posted by That Other Mike on 10/01/2008

AKA, Watch Me Being Literary. With linkage for full benefit. A lot of scifi and fantasy lately, for some reason. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in books | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Scifi Stuff

Posted by That Other Mike on 08/01/2008

OK, before I go into my favourite scifi of all time (naturally in my opinion only, list subject to change), I’d like to be a bit geeky about it and post a few thoughts, not necessarily right order in the. Bear with me.

A lot of people get a bit confused about science fiction: they include stuff like the inestimable The Handmaid’s Tale or Aliens, both narratives which seem on the face of it to be prime candidates. A lot of stuff that gets lumped into scifi is really speculative fiction where the science is just handy background or a useful deus ex machine – like Star Trek.

I would argue that the real meaning of science fiction is stories where science drives the story, where it acts as an extra character – it not only enables the story, it is the story.

In light of that, stuff like I Am Legend is science fiction; Star Trek is not.

A little more of Star Trek: it’s utopian or adventure fiction by turns, with the occasional scifi element thrown in for funsies. Gene Roddenbury originally pitched it as “Wagon Train to the stars”, and he was right; nobody ever calls Wagon Train horse fiction.

Ok, I’m done with the geekery. On with the show.

My top five in books:

  • I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson – original novel.
  • Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood, notwithstanding that she doesn’t like to call it scifi. Everyone has a few novelists whom they don’t simply like but adore; Atwood is one of mine. I can even forgive her becoming a little plot-samey in the past few years.
  • Ringworld, by Larry Niven. Thin characters, not much plot… But a ringworld!
  • Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny.
  • The Gods Themselves, by Isaac Asimov

Posted in Odds and Sods, science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The God Delusion

Posted by That Other Mike on 19/12/2007

I actually finished The God Delusion a few days ago; I just hadn’t gotten around to writing about it yet.

Stylistically, TGD is classic Dawkins: he is clear and concise with what he has to say, and manages the impressive trick of being highbrow without being condescending. It also exhibits a clarity of purpose, in that every section links in some way to every other, sections follow clearly on from one another, and the reasoning in what he’s saying is clear and acute, even if you happened not to agree. In short, RD performs the kind of scientific and philosophical popularisation for which he is justly famous. No complaints there; the book is easily accessible to just about anyone – which is rather the point.

In terms of content, TGD is something of a disappointment to me, I must admit. As a long term fan of RD, I’ve devoured as much of his work as I could lay my hands on. The bulk of this book is retreading previous ground, although there is possible reason for that – TGD is aimed at being a clarification and amalagamation rather than a groundbreaker, and is probably written more for the person who has heard of Dawkins and his famously-controversial stance but not yet read anything by him. In short, I believe it to be intended as a primer for possible Atheists.

That being said, it does the job very well. Established Dawkins fans may be disappointed by the overall lack of new content, but, then again, this book isn’t for us.

Basically, if you know Dawkins’s work already, you won’t find anything much new here; if you don’t, then this book neatly collects and encapsulates the interesting stuff he’d had to say about gods and religion over the years.

Posted in Atheism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »