Vogon poetry


This arrived as a comment on the blog the recently, and it appealed to me as such as such a nice example of Vogon poetry (in English) that I almost let it stay – it was even formatted in a way that looked as if it should scan but really didn’t.
Obviously, if I had approved it I would just have been inundated with similar nonsense, and while it’s funny once, there’s only so much drivel one can wade through before running out of time to write a blog post and resorting to rehashing a spam comment…
So, before deleting it, I decided to save it for posterity (although I’m sure many fellow bloggers will have seen this or some other example). Anyway, without any further ado, may I present:

‘Ode to a Piece of Spam I Found in My Inbox One Thursday Morning’

by Mari Cruz Martins


Begin of the two easy salmon cuisine makes sweetie
probably walnut syrup sugar-cinnamon. Might be makes you chuckle,
the others on internet land will likely then have fun also.
Along with neat thing could it be will still be seeing as luxurious
as any next reward holder may possibly acquire. Existing day
elevator pressurization computers can permit the lifts in the
package by firefighting crew.

Of course, if you are Mari Cruz Martins, or otherwise wish to claim authorship of the above, please do let me know, and I will gladly credit you correctly or take the post down if you prefer.
Just stop spamming my comments box, ok?

Tuesday Tunes: Odyssey Through O2

re dwarf 720a

Today I’m going to finish my review of what isn’t known as the Oxygene Trilogy by Jean Michel Jarre. Not content with failing to do the original Oxygene justice with the follow-up, Jarre then went and got a selection of DJs and remixers to add their spin to various tracks from Oxygene 7-13. Mainly, if we’re honest, Oxygene 8, that being one of the more melodic tracks from the selection.

Odyssey Through O2 is presented in three phases (although what the difference is between the three would probably take more of an expert on these things than me to say), and the whole is strung together by French DJ Claude Monnet in such a way that it does have the same sort of flow from one track to the next that you would expect from a Jarre album.

Unfortunately, that is about all this has in common with a typical Jarre album. Phase 1 presents Oxygene 10 with a decidedly Eastern feel, and isn’t that bad as an opener, but it is followed by a barely recognisable mix of Oxygene 7 and a couple of versions of Oxygene 8, which do at least keep some of the spaceyness of the original.

Phase 2 starts out promisingly but somehow manages to descend into generic dance music; some of it isn’t discernibly Jarre, some of it is plain disappointing, but some of it isn’t that bad – the Sunday Club remix of Oxygene 8 sounds enough like the original to be likeable, has the kind of spacey bits I so like about the Oxygene saga, and adds a beat over it that makes it even more epic as writing music.

Phase 3, for me, is where the good stuff is. A short and spacey remix of Oxygene 11 segues straight into a more epic mix of Oxygene 12 and an industrial house version of Oxygene 8, and then out into the closing piece, about a minute of classic, ambient Oxygene.

For some reason, tacked on after that as a ‘bonus’, you get the World Cup ’98 version of Rendez-Vous IV mixed by Apollo440, which is just a huge disappointment because it’s a great tune, and the remix should have been epic, but instead destroyed almost all of the original tune.

Thankfully that isn’t quite the end of the story, for tacked on after the bonus is Oxygene 13 TK Remix, which while not in the same league as the original, is more faithful to the original than some of the tracks here, mixed into a decent, upbeat track, almost certain to be the soundtrack to many a chase scene in my forthcoming writing.

Stand-out track: Ironically, my favourite Jarre remix is The Orb’s version of Oxygene 8, which Jarre refused to include because it didn’t keep enough of the original material (more on that next time). Even out of those that made the cut, I’m picking the bonus track, Oxygene 13 TK Remix, as my favourite track.

Odyssey Through O2 is very much a mixed bag; a few good tracks, but most just useful as background noise with more of a beat than regular Jarre. Certainly not an album to just sit and enjoy.

Listen along

Get a copy

Linky goodness

My review of Oxygene
My review of Oxygene 7-13

Re-Dwarf: Confidence and Paranoia

re dwarf 720a

Confidence and Paranoia is not a high point in the history of the Dwarf. It does have some interesting ideas; the effect of 3 million years of evolution on the pneumonia virus, the constant struggle between aspects of Lister’s sub-conscious, and the dream recorder gets its first mention.

The story opens with Lister snooping around, wallowing in his unrequited love for Kochanski again; wondering how often she dreamt about him, and what Rimmer has done with her hologram disc.

Due to a tragic misunderstanding, Lister discovers that he has been snooping around in a part of the ship which has not been decontaminated, and from which he contracts the central premise of the episode – mutated pneumonia that gives him very real hallucinations.

In space, no-one can hear you cha-cha-cha

Unfortunately this doesn’t entirely work – the exploding Mayor of Warsaw is a nicely surreal touch, and the trashing of the medicomp by Confidence hints at a Jekyll and Hyde type of multiple personality gone very bad, but by the end of the episode the whole concept seems a bit tired to me.

For all that, it’s not without amusing moments, most memorable being Rimmer’s conversations with the weasley Paranoia, a character so annoyingly whiney that he makes Rimmer look fun to be with.


There are quite a lot of minor visual and audio upgrades in the re-mastered version, but the most obvious change is Holly’s joke in his opening monologue. The new joke is more in keeping with the science-fiction feel of the series, if not actually any funnier. There’s also a scene in the original version where Rimmer discovers that the medicomp has been vandalised which was cut from the re-master in order to up the pace of the story.

Watch this episode for interesting ideas, if not great execution; and a very brief dip into mental illness.


This week, I have been mostly…

…keeping up with the day job. I have almost beaten it into submission though, so hopefully soon I can get on with some more interesting things. In the meantime, here’s the creative tally for the last month:

Updating the website.

There is an Old Testament Space Opera section now, although most of the pages are still backstage getting their hair done. Unfortunately this section lacks illustration, and I’m not sure I really want little Lego dudes illustrating my one available work.
Also, the email button on the front page works properly now too..



Epic fail. Still playing with some short stories, but got sidetracked by planning The Ambivalence Chronicles #1 – it turned out turned out that DragonQuest is the third story in the series, and as that’s basically written I feel the need to catch up with it.



The Countless as the Stars rewrite has slowed somewhat too, although I do have an editing window later this week.


Coming soon…

Camp NaNoWriMo. I wasn’t going to participate – one crazy sleep-deprived month per year is enough for any sane person – but since I have a story well into the planning stages, and can cut the word goal down to a manageable 20k, I seem to have done a swift u-turn on that.
And, as there won’t be any e-books until some time after July, it seems silly to wait for them before opening the shop page; paperback copies of Countless as the Stars will be available here again before I disappear into Camp NaNo.

Iain M Banks (1954-2013)


I’m not in the habit of blogging obituaries. I wasn’t even going to do write this, because it seems a terrible shame that a person has to die in order for people to express their appreciation for his work. But then I thought, you know what? There’s only one Iain Banks; I should say something to mark his passing. I sort of hoped I would have a review of one of his novels lurking somewhere that I could post, but apparently I don’t.

I’m not exactly qualified to write much about Iain Banks, having never met or in any way communicated with him, but for what it’s worth, here’s a few random thoughts from a wannabe science fiction writer.

My introduction to the Banksiverse (is that a thing? That should be a thing.) was Against a Dark Background, a science fiction novel set outside the vastness of the Culture novels. Here, Banks works with a smaller, more intimate (relatively speaking) playing field, limiting the action to a single solar system – but as he did with the Culture, he created an entire history and society for this system, and brought them to the page so effectively that, well, I became a fan. It’s also every bit as dark at the title suggests – possibly more so – and that, I think, was a large part of why I loved it.

Later, I dived into the Culture – starting with his first science fiction novel, the epic space opera Consider Phlebas, although it’s probably not essential to start there; I dipped in and out of subsequent Culture novels as and when I got hold of them, and the imagination, originality, and mind-boggling level of detailed world-building that must have gone into this galaxy of post-humans and God-like Minds… it’s enough to make me give up writing now. Well, almost.

It was the day my grandmother exploded.

More recently I discovered the work of the other Iain Banks, the one without the middle initial, who writes darkly humorous literary fiction. I haven’t read much of this, but some appealed to me; notably The Bridge, which crossed the gulf between literary and speculative fiction with the same kind of twisted originality that his sci-fi led me to expect. Most recently I read the (then) new Transition, a fascinating – if sometimes tricky to follow – story of multiple universes and the individuals with the ability to flit between worlds, borrowing bodies in each universe and having to deal with things like personality disorders existing within the borrowed body. A fascinating idea, reflecting Banks’ desire for the story to something as weird as The Bridge.

I can’t say I have universally loved everything I have read by Iain M Banks; much of his non-genre output, witty as it undoubtedly is, has failed to grab me in the first few pages. Some of his sf novels are better than others; Inversions left me underwhelmed, and Feersum Endjinn, whilst having an intriguing premise, is practically unreadable – it is, however, a testament to his ability as a writer that he not only got the thing published, but it’s averaging 4 stars on amazon despite being written in gibberish.

I’m not sure I can write a closing sentence now without throwing the word ‘originality’ in again, but I know I’ve used it too much already… Let’s just say that British science fiction, British literature, and my personal reading experience, is much richer for the work of Iain Banks.



It’s hard to believe, but I actually haven’t done a Doctor Who post here yet.

I may have mentioned the good Doctor in passing, but he certainly hasn’t had a post all to himself. Even after that season finale in all its goodness.

So, here we are to rectify that gross oversight, on the eve of the revelation of the Twelfth Doctor’s face. (Was there this much excitement when they did a regeneration in Classic Who? I wasn’t on twitter then, so I don’t remember.)

Anyway, according to Starburst, a Sunday newspaper has got hold of the name of the Doctor (so to speak) and plans to reveal it this weekend. So, obviously, the BBC have said they’ll scoop the scoop and reveal all tomorrow – which will be mighty convenient for the Sunday newspaper which doesn’t actually have a name and is just hoping the beeb won’t call their bluff.

And, just as obviously, the internet is scooping the scoop of the scoop by telling us all in advance that it’s going to be one of these guys:

Domhnall Gleeson – who’s ginger, which the Doctor has always wanted to be;

Daniel Kaluuya – who had a bit part in that episode of Doctor Who with the bus and the Bionic Woman;

or Dominic Cooper – who is older than Matt Smith (probably a good thing – he can’t keep getting younger, after all, or we’ll end up with Teen Angst Doctor, and nobody needs that).
Or it might not be. Sources tell us it is, but you know how unreliable sources can be.

It could still be a woman, much to the delight of thousands of feminists who will suddenly start watching it, oblivious to the fact that he’s been a bloke for getting on a millenium now and is just making a token gesture. Plus, who wants to see Olivia Colman in a bow tie, staggering around in a post-regenerational haze, and suddenly going ‘Hello, these are new!’

The time for a female doctor was about 30 years ago when it was first mentioned; I think now we should just accept that regeneration cannot include gender reassignment.

Personally, I’m still holding out for Bill Bailey.

Tuesday Tunes: Oxygene 7-13

re dwarf 720a

In the last writing music post we looked at Oxygene, undoubtedly one of Jean Michel Jarre’s better and most popular poeces of work. Twenty years after its release, Jarre went back to Oxygene, and used similar sounds and themes to produce a sequel, the imaginatively titled Oxygene 7-13.

The first two tracks put me in mind of Oxygene Part IV, and Part 9 harks back to the low key, atmospheric feel that opened the 1976 CD – so far, so good. Unfortunately Oxygene 10 is where the whole thing sort of sags in the middle; it’s not especially bad, it just… doesn’t seem to fit.

Part 11 does start to get Oxygene feel back, and 12 combines the new melodies with the spacey synths of the original to pretty decent effect.

After the upbeat mid-section provided by 11 & 12, the CD closes with a more mellow, melodic number, again very reminiscent of the way the original Oxygene closes.

I think the main failing of this CD is its title; hadit been given a new name, any references back to 1976 would have been greeted with a knowing grin by Jarre fans, and the new elements judged on there own merit rather than by comparison. The fact is, Oxygene was so good in the first place, that trying to add to it would always be difficult at best.

Oxygene 7-13 was Jarre’s last recording before going off on a tangent and starting to include lyrics and stuff, so from that perspective, going back to the start brings that part of his musical career full circle.

Stand out track: Oxygene Part 13, which is, simply, a classic Jarre track.

Inevitable comparisons aside, it’s a Jean Michel Jarre album – not one of his best, but at its best, every bit as enjoyable as any other.

Get a copy

CSFF Blog Tour: Edited Highlights


This is one of those occasions where I feel like I should have done the homework. I don’t mean like actually reading the book or anything stupid like that – that really is the stuff of fantasy. Apparently, Merlin’s Blade does not refer to a propellor blade which may once have been attached to that other legendary defender of English soil, the Supermarine Spitfire; nor does it refer to a sword thrown at the unsuspecting Arthur by some watery tart, thus bestowing supreme power upon him.

All that aside, being English, I am oddly fascinated by the many and varied mythologies that surround our once and future king, and should really be able to offer something more on the subject. I’ve even been to Dintaga and seen Merlin’s Cave, but that was before the days of digital cameras so I can’t even impress you with my photographic skills.

Oh well, in the absence of anything sensible or intelligent from the ancient Kingdom of Mercia, here’s a selection of other stops on the tour worth making:
Emma Engel schools me on who Merlin may or may not actually be.
Shannon McDermott compares King Arthur with Robin Hood.
A teenager’s review – seems the book hit the spot with at least this part of the target audience.
And there are plenty more reviews:
Here, here and here to name but three. There are plenty more, get clicky with the sidebar and see what happens.

It seems that Robert Treskillard has achieved quite something here, re-writing the Arthurian myth in a way that even readers who weren’t excited by the source material came away enjoying his take on the story.

As ever, there’s plenty more on the tour, stop off at Becky Miller’s blog for direct links to every post on the tour.

CSFF Blog Tour vs Tuesday Tunes: Merlin’s Blade


In case you didn’t get it from yesterday’s cryptic picture clue, this week I’m joining the CSFF Blog Tour, highlighting Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard. Which of course means conjuring up some suitable musical refreshment for the half-way point on the tour.

So here it is, all the way from a cave somewhere under Kernow: the Top Ten Wizard Songs…

10. T. Rex – The Wizard
Everybody’s favourite Mini-driving glam rocker would have charted higher, but at almost 9 minutes long this is about 5 minutes too long.

9. Black Sabbath – The Wizard
Pf Gandalf had been Ozzy’s drug dealer, this would have been his theme tune.

8. The Who – Pinball Wizard
I don’t think this one is about a wizard at all you know…

7. Bat For Lashes – The Wizard
Right, enough of that rock nonsense, time for a change of pace; something nicely ethereal, perhaps.

6. The Others – My Friend The Wizard
This is what the bad guys from out of Lost would have sounded like if they were a 60s garage band rather than some secretive, island-dwelling weirdos.

5. The Flaming Lips – The Wizard Turns On…
I don’t just dredge up any old rubbish from the depths of Spotify you know – this won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

4. Madness – The Wizard
Ah, finally, Madness. That’s something I can relate to.

3. Mogwai – Wizard Motor
What would Gizmo from out of Gremlins be doing with a motorised wizard?

2. Paul Hardcastle – The Wizard
It’s the tune from Top of the Pops! What do you mean, what’s Top of the Pops? Kids today, with your MTV and your VH1 and your Kerrang TV and…

1. Chumbawumba – The Wizard of Menlo Park
Because there just aren’t enough songs about Thomas Edison in the world. Also, this song proves I haven’t listened to enough Chumbawumba.

The playlist is ready for you to listen along, but don’t forget to visit the other bloggers on the tour, and then go and buy a Chumbawumba CD Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard.

CSFF Blog Tour: Merlin’s Blade by Robert Treskillard