Friday, March 01, 2024

Comic Cuts - 1 March 2024

Finally, I'm back onto the Forgotten Authors book after a lengthy distraction. I wanted to write something that I could dip in and out of while I was trying to sort out my laptop, and it rather took over the last two weeks.

It wasn't even the thing I planned to write. I have been thinking about how to follow-up the Badger book, and one of the ideas is to do a similar sort of thing about Curtis Warren, a contemporary paperback publisher plus some connected threads. I've already written up one tie-in piece about a company that they shared offices with, and I have been meaning for years to write a piece about the advertising in their books — if you've picked up any titles published by the firm, you'll instantly recognise the ads for bamboo growing and for the lucky Cornish piskie, Joan the Wad.

The background to both businesses is quite interesting... but when I began digging into it, I discovered there was a connection to Wivenhoe, and to Wivenhoe Hall, a large estate that existed until the 1920s, that was just around the corner from where I live. Being easily distracted, I took a look into that connection, discovered it involved a family of conmen, and ended up writing an 11,000-word history of them that I only managed to complete on Monday.

It still needs to be thoroughly checked over, but I'm thinking of handing the results to the local Historical Society who I contacted to find some details.

Maybe I'll get back to the article I intended writing at some point. As long as it doesn't involve the laptop crashing again!

So it's back to volume five of Forgotten Authors and a read-through of a couple of essays I hadn't managed to rewrite before the Big Crash. (They're safely restored, by the way, and I'm in the process—literally as I write—of backing stuff up to a newly purchased Micro SD card. This one will hopefully work as I've picked a name brand and paid quite a bit for it. I was scammed a couple of months ago, buying a 1tb card for a remarkably cheap price through Amazon which looked legit, but turned out to be a crooked operation.

The card arrived loose in a small padded bag, which set off alarm bells, so I set to copying a load of music. It took a little while to realise that the card had filled and had no more space, despite what the card itself was claiming. I reformatted it and tried again, but had the same problem. At which point I reformatted it again and returned it. Whatever you have to say about Amazon, they refunded my money the moment I had the card back in the post.

If this works I'll buy a couple more and keep them safely stored away with up-to-date back-ups. Hope for the best — that my laptop doesn't crap out again — but plan for the worst, is my motto, and it stood me proud this time as I have managed to restore everything on the laptop without losing much. There are some e-mails that have gone forever, but even there the bulk of my e-mails are safe.

It hasn't all been work. I  had a very nice meal out on Saturday for someone's birthday and then everyone piled back to Wiv for cake and conversation, mostly about cake but also catching up with Alex Stewart, who tells me that he's working on a new Ciaphas Cain novel to add to what's already a fantastic series of nine novels. There hasn't been a new one since 2013, so I'm really looking forward to it appearing, probably next year depending on how many cake-breaks the author takes.

I'm trying to read more this year, and I'm already two-thirds of the way through one of my Christmas presents — Irontown Blues by John Varley, whose work I love; he was a newcomer around the time I started reading SF seriously in the mid-1970s and I read everything I could as it came out. There was a crash in the SF market here in the UK in the 1990s that wiped out British editions of a lot of American writers. Varley was one of them, so I had to buy the Ace editions of his later novels. Irontown Blues came out in a trade paperback edition in 2018 and, like many I expect, I waited for the 'C' format paperback so that it matched the others. It didn't come, and by the time I realised it was already nigh on impossible to buy over here.

Finally I bit the bullet and asked for the trade paperback for Christmas and Mel came through. Irontown Blues mixes my two favourite genres: science fiction and crime noir; its set in Varley's Eight Worlds universe, intersects plotwise with another of his finest books, Steel Beach, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

It's sad to think that this could be Varley's last book, He's retired from writing and living on social security and small royalty payouts. A potential animated version of his Titan series (Titan, Wizard, Demon) failed to achieve its goal on Kickstarter — badly publicised? I only saw it mentioned on one website. The books came out forty years ago and are long out of print, so the failure of the Kickstarter was perhaps inevitable.

I like to think that he's secretly working on another book, quietly, steadily, and carefully avoiding any mention of it, having seen the growing trend of entitled fans who think complaining that an author is too slow will make them write faster (cf. Varley's contemporary, George R. R. Martin). Says the guy who has rambled through nearly 1,000 words of nonsense rather than getting his nose to the grindstone to finish off the last of the Forgotten Authors essays.

Time to get on with it, or I might be distracted into telling you all about the futuristic, space-age kettle we've just bought.

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