Room full of mirrors

• March 16th, 2014 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights

I’ve always liked the lyrics of this song by Jimi Hendrix.

I used to live in a room full of mirrors
All I could see was me
Well I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors
Now the whole world is here for me to see
I said the whole world is here for me to see
Now I’m searching for my love to be…

It’s a hard and scary thing to give up the company of one’s own projections, and to step out into a real world which you can’t control, and in which will only ever be a small part.  But unless you make that step, you will never grow up and you will be forever alone .

Roughly speaking, that’s the idea behind The Holy Machine, though the influence of this song is more obvious in Marcher, whose main protagonist actually does live in a room in a room full of mirrors.

Marcher New Cover

Room full of mirrors. Ben Baldwin’s cover image for Marcher.

 

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Voices from Eden (2)

• March 13th, 2014 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights

In an earlier post I mentioned that the 8 actors performing the new US audio book of Dark Eden have been working on a whole new Eden accent, not quite like any accent on Earth: a very ambitious and difficult task to take on.

Here’s a clip from Random House Audio, which shows where they’ve got to.  Tina Spiketree is speaking:

(There is of course already a UK audio book, read by Oliver Hembrough and Jessica Martin.)

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Through endless skies

• March 6th, 2014 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights

My son Dom and I have a habit of sending each other interesting songs that we come across, and he recently sent me this one, ‘Planet Caravan‘ by Black Sabbath, about the singer wandering through the universe with his lover.

Listening to it reminded me of one very simple reason why I write science fiction rather than realist fiction.  If you are going to make stuff up, why confine yourself to the narrow and parochial limits of our little patch of space and time?

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Voices from Eden

• February 16th, 2014 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, My favourite posts

There is already a British audio book version of Dark Eden (read by Oliver Hembrough and Jessica Martin), but I’m very much looking forward to hearing the new US audio book from Random House Audio which is still under development.   This will involve 8 actors, so that the book’s various narrators can all have different voices, but what is particularly intriguing about it is that the producer Janet Stark  and her cast of actors are attempting to develop a whole new Eden accent for the recording.

What will this sound like?   Everyone in Eden is descended from just two people – a white man from Brooklyn, New York, and a black woman from Peckham in South London – so one thing that we can be sure of is that the accent will bear traces of both those different sources.  During the early years too, the entire human population of Eden consisted of a single family – mum, dad, kids – and some of the characteristics of Eden English derive from that fact.   Parents with little kids tend to simplify their speech, even when speaking to one another, and this effect would be even more pronounced in the absence of other adults (or the written word) to pull the speech of family members back in the direction of adult norms. This is the source of the use of double adjectives for emphasis – something that little children often do – and the tendency to drop direct articles, but it will have had an effect too on pronunciation and on the rhythms of Eden speech.

But all that is only part of the story.  The accent of Eden would not just be a blend of its two sources.  People play with language, change it like clothes. They get bored with saying things one way, and try another.  New things appear and become cool, others fade out of use.  Who could have predicted the trend towards a rising inflection at the end of a sentence in spoken English here on Earth, or the more recent fashion of beginning sentences with the word ‘So’?  The people of Eden have lived in isolation for 160 years.  Less than 160 years after white settlers first arrived in Australia, Australian English had developed its own distinct and instantly recognisable accent, and that was in spite of continuing contact with the mother country, and continuing large scale migration (even today more than 10% of Australians were born in the UK).

I think the spoken language of Eden would be slow.   Both the source accents are fast, clipped and urban, but Eden folk are as rustic as it is possible to be, and rustic people tend to speak slowly (think Somerset, Queensland or Alabama).   I think too that it would be more musical, more singsong. These are people with no TV, no books, no video games, no movies.  The repetition of oral traditions is much more important to them than it is to us.  I think they would savour language and linger over it in a way that we don’t.

As to those double adjectives which everyone notices (and some people hate!), I hear them with the first adjective emphasised and drawn out, with a slight fall at the end towards the lower, shorter repetition:  B-I-I-I-G big.

But then again, sometimes Eden folk do it the other way round.  They just feel like it.  That’s what humans are like.

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The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress

• January 31st, 2014 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights

I was looking at writing a little thing about the Robert Heinlein novel, a favourite of my teens, when I came across a song with the same title: ‘The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress’ by Jimmy Webb, who also wrote the lovely ‘Wichita Lineman’.

It seems that Webb did consciously borrow the title from the book, and wrote to Heinlein for permission to use it, though I don’t believe you can actually copyright a title.

Apart from the title, the song has nothing to do with Heinlein’s book, but it’s a very beautiful song.

There actually is a song that uses one of my titles – The Holy Machine – and that pleased me very much.  I would love to be a songwriter – there is something wonderfully perfect and self-contained about a good song which very little else can match – but I think this is about as near to it as I’m going to get.

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The Holy Machine: new cover

• December 6th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, News & events

New Holy Machine coverThe new edition of The Holy Machine is now available.   It’s the same book inside the cover, of course, but books are objects too, and this new version seems to me a pretty desirable thing.

The contents aren’t bad either:

“A triumph.” – Paul di Filippo, Asimov’s SF.

“…the sparse prose and acute social commentary of a latter-day Orwell…”  – Eric Brown, The Guardian.

“The most amazing book I have ever read…. Simply amazing. A must read for all human beings!”  – Rafael from Brooklyn: enthusiastic Amazon.com reviewer!

The Holy Machine is also available as an unabridged AUDIO BOOK, read by John Banks.

More about The Holy Machine here.

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Glorified

• November 29th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, My favourite posts

When I did an interview recently for the Pakistani station CityFM89 I got to pick 15 songs to be played on the programme.  A real treat, and an honour.  But I wasn’t allowed to pick any classical music, which meant leaving out some of my favourite pieces.

Here is one of them, the opening chorus of Bach’s St John Passion: ‘Herr unser Herrscher.’  Insofar as it is possible to have a single favourite piece of music, this is probably it.  There is so much going on here: immense energy (feel the tension, the exhilaration!), incredibly intricate architecture that is structurally perfect and yet fluid, working through time as well as space…  But running through it all is that wonderful quality of serenity, assurance, optimism that (for me) epitomises the Baroque era, back in the Age of Enlightenment, when the world was brutal and cruel, but so many many possibilities were opening up.  Will there ever be another time like it?

The words in German are:

Herr, unser Herrscher,
dessen Ruhm
in allen Landen herrlich ist!
zeig uns durch deine Passion,
daß du, der wahre Gottessohn,
zu aller Zeit,
auch in der größten Niedrigkeit,
verherrlicht worden bist!

In English this is something like:

Lord, our ruler,
whose praise
is glorious in all lands,
show us by your Passion
that You, the true Son of God,
at all times,
even in the lowest state,
have been glorified.

You don’t have to agree with the theology to recognise that the music embodies the idea expressed in those final words.   Even in the lowest state, it glorifies.

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Interview on CityFM89 Karachi

• November 20th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, Interviews etc

Here I am being interviewed by Mahvesh Murad on CityFM89.  The interview went out on Nov 16th.  I gather the station can be heard across much of Pakistan and part of India.

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Free audio version of ‘Our Land’

• October 12th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights, News & events

A free audio version of my story ‘Our Land’ here, really beautifully narrated by Scott Barclay (accents and everything) in Dark Fiction magazine.

Also free stories by Hal Duncan, Chloe Yates and Den Patrick.

‘Our Land’ is included in the short story collection The Peacock Cloak, published earlier this year.

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Dark Eden out as audio book

• June 10th, 2013 • Posted in All posts, Audible delights

I’m very pleased to say that Dark Eden will be available as an audio book at the end of this week.  I haven’t heard it yet myself but here are two narrators  and I assume they share out between them the various male and female narrators within the book.

The thing that gets me is that it’s more than 13 hours long.   Did I really write 13 hours-worth of words?!

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