New Michael Moorcock story to appear in Postscripts.

New Michael Moorcock story to appear in Postscripts later this year. It’s an End of Time story and will be in #15.

I used to subscribe to Postscripts, over a year ago now and to be honest wasn’t a big fan. Most of the writing was quite alt/speculative and I’m afraid a bit pretentious, does seem they are getting some quite good names writing for them recently, so perhaps things have changed?

Fascinating analysis of a SF Writer’s Work – The Stross Formula at SF Diplomat

An absolutely fascinating and well-thought criticism of Charles Stross’ work at SF Diplomat. Found out lots of interesting things about style, such as the Hodge-Podge and agree with SF Diplomat on the lack of interest by Stross in either plot or character, but speculation instead.

Terry Pratchett interview at SFX and funny comment on Alice in Wonderland

This interview of Terry Pratchett at SFX is quite amusing, especially his comments about Alice in Wonderland. I have to agree with him, it is quite a hard read. I read it about a year ago and struggled with it.

Pratchett says:

“It really is the most awful book and I think it just keeps going because there’s some kind of momentum that keeps it trundling on. Does anyone ever read Alice in Wonderland these days? Really, really read it? Somehow society decides that some titles stay in print, even though they’re pretty awful and nobody reads them anymore. I’m sorry but I hated the book. I thought it was god-awful, creepy Victorian humour.”

Orcs – No the cover looks good but the writing is awful

It’s sad when books like Orcs seem to get hyped on their covers, when the actual writing is so sub-standard. I got taken into reading the first of these books and was soooo disappointed. It shows what power publishers can have if they get the marketing right I suppose. Seemed to work as well with James Barclay – the covers look great, but the content is pretty dull fantasy formula – again similar gritty fighting stuff like Nicholls, but not very well written and boring to read plot wise – just very hackneyed. I think these writers are trying to be like the master of this sort of epic fantasy, but failing.

One guy I have just started reading, Joe Abercrombie, succeeds very well. Its not because the themes and plot are particularly dazzling though, its the immediacy of the description that really makes the characters and the atmosphere come alive. You can feel the mud seeping into your boots!

Trillion Credit Squadron Rides Again! A Traveller RPG Resource

Trillion Credit Squadron CoverBack in my RPG days at school Traveller was always the best sf game out there. The open-ended nature of it was a blessing and a curse as you could do anything, which add-ons such as Trillion Credit Squadron, High Guard and Striker enabled, but also it lacked detailed good quality adventures, which meant that you had to do a lot of the work yourself, and left it rather lacking on the atmosphere front.

Trillion Credit Squadron provided you the tools to create your own fleets of mega starships to fight out space battles on a grand scale. However, in the days of pen and paper it was a real chore to do the creating, and I have often toyed with the idea of doing something with the software available now to make the process easier and effectively automate the process.

So here’s a first step on that road – a spreadsheet that allows me and anyone else to pump in the right numbers and design some really big spaceships – what could be more fun! You’ll need copies of Trillion Credit Squadron and High Guard to do this, but the spreadsheet makes the admin a lot easier.

Future developments might include seeing if formulas can be worked out for actually managing the space battles themselves!

Here’s are the links to the spreadsheets. There’s a template to use for creating ships, plus two worked examples. My apologies for any errors – please let me know if you spot anything wrong!!

My long-term ambition is to learn enough programming to turn these spreadsheets into some sort of game or computer programme to simulate Trillion Credit Squadron fleet designs and battles.






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Early Egyptian Administration

New finds at Edfu in Egypt show how ancient Egyptian society used grain as a currency. They discovered a huge silo where grain was stored – in effect the bank for the city!

I think this is a useful insight into how ancient civilisation works and a reminder for fantasy world builders that currency doesn’t have to be traditional coinage, but a note of both realism and difference can be brought to world creation by thinking laterally – what would the society actually value and be able to use as a form of exchange.

Galileo’s Children: Tales of Science vs Superstition

Saw a review of this anthology at Realms of Speculative Fiction – looks like a very interesting read. I’m especially interested in this one as it comes close to the theme of my own writing in my Ladmas/Arruld fantasy/SF world.

Stories include:

The Stars Below (1974) by Ursula K. LeGuin
The Will of God (1991) by Keith Roberts
The Way of Cross and Dragon (1979) by George R.R. Martin
The Pope of the Chimps (1982) by Robert Silverberg
The World is a Sphere (1973) by Edgar Pangborn
Written in Blood (1999) by Chris Lawson
Falling Star (2004) by Brendan DuBois
Three Hearings on the Existence of Snakes in the Human Bloodstream (1997) by James Alan Gardner
The Star (1955) by Arthur C. Clarke
The Last Homosexual (1996) by Paul Park
The Man Who Walked Home (1972) by James Tiptree Jr.
When the Old Gods Die (1995) by Mike Resnick
Oracle (2000) by Greg Egan

North American Civilisation news

No this isn’t a contradiction in terms! Some interesting research has come out recently covering two aspects of early civilisation in North America.

Firstly it’s claimed that large mammals, woolly mammoth and others, became extinct in North America due to an exploding asteroid, rather than the usual explanation of over hunting. The extinction of large mammals is usually given as a reason by the likes of Jared Diamond and others as one of the reasons North America peoples didn’t develop a settled civilisation as quickly as Eurasia. If you read the research story this theory about an asteroid does sound plausible!

Secondly another piece of research claims that the first people to settle North America – known as the Clovis civilisation came from Europe over the Kankakee Sand Islands. Arrowheads found match exactly those found in Europe. The previous theory was that Americans came from Siberia over the Bering Strait land bridge – there are a number of genetic and cultural similarities that back up the Bering Strait theory.

It’s interesting that these two items come at the same time – the first one actually puts the second discovery into context. As well as wiping out mammoths the asteroid is also blamed for destroying the Clovis civilisation – so maybe the Clovis people did come from Europe a bit before Siberians came over the Bering Strait, but by the time they came the Clovis people weren’t around anyway. So the previous theory may still stand that North American indigenous peoples are descended from emigrants from Siberia.