Beneath Ceaseless Skies

I submitted a short-story to this new fantasy magazine recently and, although the story was rejected, I received some very useful feedback on exactly why the editor didn’t like the piece. 

This I find is very rare indeed and I hope that this is a conscious policy on the part of the magazine. It can often be very frustrating to receive a story rejection when the only comment is that the piece is not right for the magazine or didn’t engage the editor. 
So congratulations Beneath Ceaseless Skies – I hope your publication is a success. Maybe if I take on your feedback I might get a story published there one day! 
I’d recommend visiting the website – the artwork and design are both excellent. 

Magic in the Middle Ages: Natural vs Demonic

Another page on my Stupor Mundi site published, this time looking at the subject of Magic! All the content here is taken from the book by Kieckhefer – its basically my notes of the examples he provides. 

Magic, according to those who dwelt on such things came in two main flavours in the Middle Ages. Natural or occult magic was based on special properties of natural occuring things, for instance magical properties of certain herbs or animals etc, whereas demonic magic was specifically the summoning of spirits for evil. 

How magic was viewed in the Middle Ages is a fascinating subject. It was believed to be real and quite dangerous. Richard Kieckhefer’s book Magic in the Middle Ages is a brilliant introduction to the subject area and I recommend reading it. As well as introducing the background to belief, it also traces the classical, celtic and germanic background to magic in Western Europe, as well as looking at Arabic and Jewish sources. The development of a clerical underground and the developing persecution of witches is also covered. 
For me however, the most useful aspect was just to get a reliable source of possible examples of how magic was practiced in the middle ages. I’m currently working on stories set in a historical context where the characters use, or attempt to use magic, so I found this book invaluable. Although it’s an academic text, it is not dry or dull at all. 

Inside the Blogosphere: Battling it Out

The latest of Inside the Blogosphere is available at Grasping for the Wind. This time our subject was:

What makes a battle or combat scene exciting to read, and what makes it drag on or detract from the narrative?

This was a really interesting topic and I wish I’d had more time to look at it.  I really liked the cover of War and Peace that John put up there – good work!

At some point I’m planning, for my own writing skills benefit, to anlyse this in more depth – particularly writers such as Tolstoy and Martin. Interesting that a number of other bloggers on the round-table mentioned Abercrombie and Martin – I endorse those opinions unreservedly. 

Warcraft Relationship Perils

I found this story about the perils of Warcraft yesterday. Quite funny. I don’t play Warcraft, but it captures well the perils of becoming too involved in anything at the detriment of your loved ones. 

Mcsweeneys is an online literature mag – mainstream/literature from what I understand – that I have just started getting a feed to. This is mainly because I want to develop the amount of poetry I’m reading. Why? Well, I was reading Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction

again for the umpteenth time and he recommends that all fiction writers should be writing poetry to improve their own style (use of language, rythmn etc). I used to write poetry when I was a young ‘un, but have fallen out of the habit, but I can see where he’s coming from, so I thought I’d re-engage.

Also I think it’s a good idea not to get stuck reading only SF/F all the time!

Dragon Page interview with Joe Abercrombie

An interesting interview with Joe Abercrombie (author of The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument Of Kings), over at Dragon Page.

The interview is mildly diverting, although as a fan I found it quite disappointing that at least one of the interviewers had not read the book? Where have you been? And why are you going into an interview without any knowledge of the book? If I was the author I wouldn’t be too chuffed!
Ah well, any publicity is good publicity they say.
On the plus side the style and presentation of these shows is very slick – very much like listening to a radio show in fact.

Scientists Search for the tomb of Ghenghis Khan

Scientists are using new technology to search for the tomb of Ghenghis Khan. The tomb is thought to be near the Onon River in Mongolia, but has never been found. Just imagine what one might find in the tomb of one of the greatest figures of world history. If they do find it that will make quite a story and no doubt will require a reassessment of many things Mongol!

I believe there’s a new film available now on DVD about Ghengis Khan. I’m planning to check it out soon.

Pleistocene Communism!

This is a fascinating new piece of research about the formation of societies amongst our ancient hunter gatherer ancestors. The researchers conjecture that egalitarianism became dominant as more intelligent humans were able to form closer social bonds with others to prevent the dominance of society by stronger alpha-male leaders. Thus the social group was ruled by consensus rather than dominated by a hierarchy of the strongest.

What happened after this phase – why in the first civilisations did hierarchical systems dominate. The researchers aren’t quite sure but conjecture that individuals were more able to control the flow of new technology resources such as weapons, information and food and thus making coalition size less important – so the masses were enslaved by the rise of technology! An interesting thought as we head into the 21st century with seemingly less democracy and less freedom around every day.

Ubik: The Screenplay

There is an interesting review of Philip K. Dick’s UBIK: The Screenplay over at SF Site. I read the novel last year – it’s got to be one of Dick’s more surreal books. I didn’t like it as much as The Man in the High Castle or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, but its a good book nevertheless. The reviewer at SF Site says that the screenplay, written by Dick for a film that never happens, is actually better than the novel, perhaps because of the divine dreams he had experienced after finishing the novel, but before writing the screenplay. Strange indeed! As is Ubik, but a great work of speculative fiction also – something sorely missed in today’s writing – not enough real weirdness about.