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Friday, November 28, 2014

Comic Cuts - 28 November 2014

Phew! The end of a pretty chaotic week and I'm looking forward to a weekend with my feet up.

I'm waiting on proof copies of Frontline UK, the new book from Bear Alley Books. The paperwork is all going through with D. C. Thomson, the copyright holders, and the book should be out on 8 December. I'm even happier with this one than the last one we did, although I'm still going to give myself a slap on the wrist for overdoing the introductory material again. I'd promised myself that I would only do a couple of pages, but, once I started writing, it turned into a jigsaw of background material and biographical sketches. Also, being a visual medium, it's nice to have the artwork reprinted at least roughly same size as it was intended.

The book runs to a nice 128 pages and will be cheaper than Arena to the tune of a whole pound. That's 20 shillings to us old folk!

While I'm waiting on the proofs to turn up, I've been trying to sort out my act as far as harnessing the tools available on the internet to sell some books. Amazon should soon list every book Bear Alley has published—most are already up but a couple are still being processed by Nielsen, who coordinate all the ISBN data.

I also have half the books now listed on eBay—only half because you're only allowed to list 10 for free per month via their "Buy It Now" service. I shall run it for a month or two and see if it's worth paying to have a few more listed. I chose the indexes (Lion, Ranger, Boys' World, Countdown) plus the four Sexton Blake Annuals, and a couple of random titles for my ten.

The price is higher on these sites than at the Bear Alley Books website because of the amount that both Amazon and eBay charge. It's still cheaper to buy direct. What I'm hoping is that people will see the books listed and, finger's crossed, do a search for Bear Alley and order from the website.

In between, I've been trying to crash through some e-mails, including one where I realised I'd made a slight goof. I was contacted by someone writing an article about J. Redding Ware who mentioned a possible blue plaque being put up at a house he lived in. Unfortunately I got the address wrong when I wrote about Ware back in 2008 and further information that has come to light in the past six years means I'm even less certain that Ware died in Peckham as I had originally stated.

Biographical research is like getting yourself a new kitten or puppy: however carefully you tread, you have to be prepared for the occasional slip-up.

Anyway, back to Amazon. There's a very simple way you can all help me finance Bear Alley Books: if you're going to visit Amazon to search for something, come to Bear Alley and use the Amazon search button over to the left of this column. You don't even have to search in the search box—just click on the search box and it will take you through to Amazon's home page. It won't cost you a penny, but I'll get a penny or two for sending you Amazon's way. Hopefully it will make up for the pathetic PLR payment I've just received from Irish public lending rights for 2013—a measly €2.14. About £1.70. Mostly from those Prion reprints I edited, for which I only get a percentage of the PLR. And as they get damaged and disappear from the shelves, so too does the PLR.

I can't believe how happy I was the first time I received a PLR payment! I earned 60p back in 2006/07... unfortunately, you had to earn at least £1 to be paid. I managed a real payment the following year: £5.92! I eventually hit the dizzy heights of £80 in 2011, but it has been downhill since then. I think I got £20 last year.

We've reached that time of year when the weather is often against me when it comes to my morning and afternoon walks. Long-time readers will know that I've been trying to get my weight down. I'm pleased to say that I'm losing roughly a pound a month; I put on a few pounds between January and March, so overall I've only lost 9 pounds this week.

So I was trying to think of a good way to illustrate how much 9 lbs is in practical terms and I think I've found the ideal way: its the weight of every Iain M. Banks novel from Consider Phlebas to Surface Detail, excluding his last novel. So the equivalent of 12 Iain M. Banks books. When you stack them up and weigh them in your hand, that's how much weight I've lost.

And that's just this year, because overall I've lost the equivalent of two sets of those same 12 novels, plus a third copy of his first five SF novels, Consider Phlebas, Player of Games, State of the Art, Use of Weapons and Against a Dark Background, a total of 21 lbs. (For the non-imperial amongst you, it also means I passed another milestone: I'm below 100kg for the first time in some years).

I still need to lose a lot of weight, so I'm not giving up on the exercise, but I'm quietly pleased that my weight is still going down, despite the fact that the weather is getting worse and I've ridden my exercise bike into the ground.

Technology news: we've got a Blu-ray player! And it works, although it almost didn't because at no point in the sales pitch for the player was there any mention that it didn't come with an HDMI cable. Maybe I should have realised but I'm quite naive about these things. Thankfully, Mel's Dad was coming over the morning we set it up and nipped into Curry's for us when he drove over.

It hasn't changed our lives beyond all recognition, but at least now, thanks to the wireless connection, we can get the iPlayer beamed to our TV. We have the same problem with some of the Freeview channels—Dave had now disappeared entirely along with all the other UK TV stations; but they were always terrible. We just don't get the strength of signal out here on the Essex coast. (Definitely a candidate for any "First World Problems" collection!)

Random scans. I picked up a copy of The Martian by Andrew Weir—I hear it's really good—and it reminded me of a book I read years ago. Shipwreck was also about an astronaut trapped on a hostile planet trying to survive using the limited resources around him. I thought it was brilliant—better, in my 12-year-old opinion, than the book it shared a prize with. The Gollancz/Sunday Times competition took place in 1975, I think, just as I was getting into SF in a big way. I was at the Grammar School by then, so I would have picked up the hardbacks either at Chelmsford Library or our smaller local library in 1976 or '77.

The anthology was originally entitled The Gollancz-Sunday Times Best SF Stories but was given the snappier title Let's Go To Golgotha—after Gary Kilworth's winning story—when it was published in paperback by Panther in 1979. The paperback mirrored Gollancz's famous yellow dust-jackets.

Shipwreck appeared in paperback in 1977 with a cover by Dave Bergen, the original of which I found on a dig around the internet... also a nice version of The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke artwork from a Pan Books edition also dating from some time in the 1970s.

Next week may be a bit patchy as I need to get down to figuring out what I'm doing next. I will have the upcoming releases column and mention of a couple of magazines just out, but that's all I'm guaranteeing.

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