Saturday, March 30, 2024

Comic Cuts — 30 March 2024

Where was I? Oh, yes, at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, at the Paperback and Pulp Book Fair.

By mid-day I'd sold out of BEYOND THE VOID and, feeling flush, I hunted around for a treat. I don't buy load of books at these fairs. I had the money from the Badger book, but half of that was needed to pay off the printing costs and the postage charges I'd had to pay to get the books to Wivenhoe. Then there was the train fare on top. I'd already been paid for three of the books so I'd sold 11 on the day at £20. £220 cash in hand, but only about £60 profit after print costs, postage and train fare.

So I bought a £30 book from Maurice Flanagan (Zardoz Books) that he generously knocked a fiver off. So one book ate up half my profit. Ah, but it was a nice book that I've been looking out for for many years. It has the unpromising title of The Plant From Infinity and appeared in 1954 under the house name Karl Maras. But Phil Harbottle, back in the 1980s, wrote up the story synopsis for our British Science Fiction Paperback and Magazine 1949-1954, and he thought it a bit of a lost gem. He said the same thing on a recent video (Phil published 68 videos on his 1950s British science fiction Youtube channel).

I picked up a second SF title, Sphero Nova by Berl Cameron, a Curtis Warren I realised I didn't have when I was writing about John Glasby for BEYOND THE VOID (it was one of his early sales). plus an old Emile Zola paperback reprint from the 1940s because I just liked the cover.

The only news I picked up that''s worth repeating here is that Rian Hughes' Rayguns and Rocketships has now sold out and there's a plan to reprint the book with a handful of corrections and some additional covers. No idea when, but if you didn't buy a copy previously, this will be your chance.

By one-thirty, the number of people in the room had dropped considerably; people were wandering off to try and find somewhere to have lunch or getting together for a drink. I thought I'd take the opportunity to head off as I had no more copies of the Badger to sell, and I think everyone had seen me wandering around in my t-shirt. There was no more promotion to be had by sticking it out for another hour and a half. I said my goodbyes and left.

The trip back was a lot easier – the trolley was a lot lighter – but I was still carrying quite a weight up and down stairs and my back was making its displeasure known. I got home about four and the house of quiet. Mel, still ill and not sleeping well overnight, must have dozed off; I put the TV on quietly and watched an episode of Halo (a solid if unimaginative SF show with plenty of action – super-soldiers vs. aliens). Mel woke up, we made some drinks and she went back to bed. I watched another episode of Halo and generally took the evening easy.

Monday morning and I had a pinpoint sharp pain in the muscles of my left-lower back, a general overall ache, a hacking cough, and no enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I also had a deadline, so I started work on an obituary for The Guardian to a background of caughs, splutters and sneezes from both Mel and I.

Apart from gathering something like 60 pages of notes, I wrote no more than 300 words.

Tuesday: Hot toddies was the smart suggestion Mel came up with; we did our own version with a huge slug of scotch, lemon, hot water and honey. It kept my throat from being torn out by huge, wracking caughs. The frustrating thing is that I don't feel ill, per se, just knackered from lack of sleep. Keeping hydrated means I'm up and down all night needing a wee.

By the end of the day I had a long draft of the obituary, but only 200 words too long, which is good for me – normally I'm waaay over! Remembered at the last minute I needed to get my Rebellion Releases column sorted, so ended up going to bed later than I planned.

On Wednesday morning I trimmed back and submitted the obituary.  Sorted out Thursday's Commando Releases column. Mel is testing negative for Covid and plans to head back to work tomorrow, so we headed out of the house for the first time in days and did some shopping. Chatted to my Mum for the first time in ten days. An hour flew by, mostly about symptoms (!). In fact the whole day flew by.

I was waiting for a FedEx delivery on Thursday which was due 8.50 to 12.50, so I started on Friday's Comic Cuts column, interspersed with some scanning and double-checking that was needed by The Guardian. I was eating a lunchtime roll at one o'clock when I spotted the FedEx van pull up outside. I went to the door and opened it and stood in the open door.

Nobody came. It was raining, so I stepped back inside and watched out the window. Still nobody came. I took a photo of the van outside through the trees and shrubs at the front of the house. And then the van drove off.

I checked the status of my package on the tracking app and it told me that they had delivered my package. I tried phoning and spoke to an AI computer. "How can I help you today?" "You've delivered a package but not to the correct address." "Let's see how we can help you... what's the package tracking number?" I tell the computer. "That package was delivered at 1:08 pm." "Yes, but where? Because I'm here and it hasn't been delivered here." "It was left with a neighbour." "We only have one neighbour and they aren't in... so where is the package?" "It was left with a neighbour." "No it wasn't." "Can we help you with anything else?" "You haven't helped me with this problem. Let's not complicate things." "Good bye."

I received an email soon after telling me that the package was with a neighbour named Doughty.

You've guessed correctly: we don't have a neighbour called Doughty. Eventually, via the electoral roll, I tracked down Adam Doughty, who I've never met, but who lives about six doors down the road; he was as confused as I was, since he also knew that he didn''t have a neighbour called Steve Holland.

If this is an example of The Singularity, I'm going to have to disagree with Vernor Vinge. He was saying that AI would develop at an increasing rate until it surpassed human understanding. In the real world, AI's lack of human understanding will earn it a thorough reprogramming with a baseball bat.

The package, by the way, had travelled all the way from Japan: a lovely looking magazine called Idea, which has published an issue dedicated to "Cross sections, floor plans and exploded diagrams: visualizing the invisible" to which I had been asked to contribute an article on Leslie Ashwell Wood. This was the article I was working on a couple of months ago.

Now it's Friday afternoon and I'm having my first day off in a while. The Vernor Vinge obituary is now up at The Guardian website, although it might be months before it appears in the print newspaper.

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