Cheeseburger Gothic

He's baaaack

Posted February 3, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

Choppered in today. Looking gnarly and not a little hungover.

38 Responses to ‘He's baaaack’

Blarkon mutters...

Posted February 3, 2015
Dibs.

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pedrogb has opinions thus...

Posted February 3, 2015
I have it preordered on KindleI can't waitBring it on!

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spoke swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 3, 2015
How do you pick different covers for the different regions? US like axes and we dont? More 'splodey or less 'splodey on some covers? It's all a mystery...

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Abe Frellman reckons...

Posted February 3, 2015
Trade you some snags for one?

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JG ducks in to say...

Posted February 3, 2015
Woohoo! Love it! What a magnificent cover. Gorgeous. Hope you'll sign it--and Leviathan--for me, once Resistance hits the Brisbane bookshops.
Trekking nicely through your incredible Leviathan. Halfway through, and hope to finish it by the end of next week.
Joanna

Halwes mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
Leviathan is a great read isn't it? I visited Sydney, which is where I was born, recently and it made me look at the place with new eyes especially the mass grave site at Wynyard and walking up George St.

JG asserts...

Posted February 4, 2015
It sure is a terrific read, Halwes. Fascinating and intricately researched. Just wonderful. I lived in Sydney for a while back in the late 80s. Nice to see my great-great-great-great-great grandfather (First Fleeter, Henry Kable) mentioned a few times in the book.

Halwes would have you know...

Posted February 5, 2015

That is great when you can connect to your heritage like that. I loved that there are things in Leviathan that we'd never have known about if they hadn't been so researched. A lot of the history that I already knew was left out so as to accommodate inconvenient facts that had been whitewashed away. You don't get an account of NSW history like Leviathan from school learning. Not where I went to school anyway.

JG reckons...

Posted February 6, 2015
Spot on. The detail of research in Leviathan is mind boggling. No wonder it's an award-winning tome. I studied a course in Australian history as part of a major in history at the ANU (and several Indigenous Australian courses at the ANU as part of an anthropology major), and I am still learning an incredible amount about Australian history from Leviathan. I'm really glad we've got this important work of history from JB. Only hope it is promoted on schools and universities. It's fascinating and immensely readable.
What an extraordinary writer you are, John.

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 6, 2015
I seem to remember reading an interview with someone from the State Library of NSW. He started talking about Leviathan and the amazing amount of time JB spent at the library researching the book. JB was a fixture, he said. Seemingly, always there until late. Then you would arrive in the morning and there would be JB giving you a cheery greeting. The library guy said, he took him probably too long to twig that JB was actually sleeping in the library. Maybe JB could confirm or deny.

Halwes mumbles...

Posted February 6, 2015

Can I push a book to you JG? Nona and Me by Clare Atkens. It's fiction however the characters and situations are based on real events. It's aimed at teenagers I think, I was touched by the reality of it though, and it gives a very real picture of life in Arnhem Land. A character in the book, Mrs Reid, is based on a good mate who strives every day to assist kids in a difficult learning environment. And the redneck characters are real enough too.

JG ducks in to say...

Posted February 7, 2015
Ta, Halwes. I'll check it out next time I'm at the library.

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Vovchara is gonna tell you...

Posted February 4, 2015
still waiting for the first part :'(

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Rhino swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 4, 2015
Time to activate unavailable book underground railroad* connection.
*Seppo specific historical reference.

Murphy mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
Through Wayne Manor, right?

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Peter Bradley mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
Same extra royalty from Booktopia?

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
Yes, saw he had a copy last night. I waited in the dark for JB to come by so I could mug him and scarper with an early copy, but he must have taken a different path. Bugger....

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Therbs mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
March 1 release, which is a Sunday. Shipping retail copies from Oz would give a March 4 arrival for international destinations.

Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted February 4, 2015
We are go!

Rhino mutters...

Posted February 5, 2015
Allllll Aboardddddddd!!!!

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Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted February 4, 2015
One please! I'll have to hide it from my son (aged 9 by the way - I'm all about responsible parenting, me) who immediately wanted to know when the next book comes out when he finished Emergence, and will I buy it the moment it comes out so he can read it! I shall be reading it first, its my money after all!

Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted February 4, 2015
So BB66 how did you explain cockpunching?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted February 4, 2015
I've met the lad. I suspect he could suss it for himself.

Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 4, 2015
Bondi lads learn that stuff in kindergarten.

Bondiboy66 puts forth...

Posted February 5, 2015
Considering he had just finished American Sniper before this I reckon he had it sorted. Funnily enough Therbs, some kids at his school were doing that cockpunching thing - we explained that one NEVER does this (and to either tell a teacher or react accordingly)

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted February 4, 2015
I guess so. Mine was advised by a group of my mates recently to "Go Ugly, Go Early and Avoid the Rush". he came back 47 minutes later to tell the drunken morons that he understood it. Given that I am sure he will understand cockpunching and likely try it out on his brother for shits n giggles.

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BigWillieStyle swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 4, 2015
Utterly off-topic, but the muscular Scandinavian fellow who plays The Mountain on "GoT" just broke a 1000-year-old record at the World's Strongest Viking Competition. Managed to walk a few steps carrying a log that weighed 650 kilograms. Six! Hundred! And! Fifty! Fucking! Kilograms!

When Toned Abs found out, he apparently called the bloke a big girl's blouse and challenged him to an arm wrestle.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted February 5, 2015
Off topic too.

So Birmo, you were part of the group that chose 'mansplain' as 2014 word of the year?

Why the frak wasn't it 'splosion'? Very disappointed here. :(


damian has opinions thus...

Posted February 5, 2015
To be fair, 'splosion isn't really that new. And mansplain is a pretty good word, one that was sorely needed

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted February 5, 2015
On this topic, I heard Susan Butler (Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary) being interviewed by Richard Aedy on Radio National's The Media Report today. Butler asked Aedy whether he was familiar with the word manspain. Aedy replied, 'Yes, my wife explained it to me'.

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted February 5, 2015
*mansp

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted February 5, 2015
*mansplain. I'm having a few problem with my Ipad/Burger interactions

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NBlob mutters...

Posted February 6, 2015
Well you see W, there's this thing called the Internet. It's not an actual real thing, like say a car, its more a virtual thing, an agreement. Anyway that agreement depends on a series of protocols...

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Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted February 7, 2015
A play on an old joke...
The Rhino and The BattleMaster.
The Horde paused to regroup before making a final push past the hastily thrown together barricade that separated them from their afternoon meal of man hearts and blood.
Before the Horde could charge, the door opened and out walked a large, middle aged man wearing a kilt and carrying a glass of clear liquid on ice with limes
"They sent out the fattest of them thinking that it will sate our appetites. This is but an appetizer."
The kilted man slurs, "I am The Rhino and I challenge the BattleMaster. When I win, you will leave and make war no more."
The Battle Master pushes his way through the throng and points his bloody ax at The Rhino. "I see no weapon puny one. You are a piss poor Champion."
Wobbling a bit, and taking a deep slug of his drink, the Rhino replies, "My weapon is this. I can take you to the heights of joy and to the deepest pit of despair. Come close and prepare to feel joy."
Slowly, the BattleMaster approached. The Rhino beckoned him to bend down so that he could whisper in his ear. Whatever the Rhino said must've been surprising because the the BattleMaster gasped and then started laughing so hard that he couldn't catch his breathe. Doubled over with laughter, tears streaming from his eyes, the BattleMaster choked out, "Human, you were half right, you did deliver me to the heights of joy with that jest. I will gladly kill you quickly in appreciation."
The BattleMaster raised his ax to deliver the killing blow.
"WAIT" screamed The Rhino. "Now stand back and bear witness to your despair." With that he downs the remainder of his drink, throws the glass to the pavement, reaches down and lifts his kilt..
The BattleMaster looks, the battle ax dropping from his now unfeeling hand and clattering to the ground. Tears once again streaming from his eyes, but this time it is not tears of laughter but tears from the deepest, darkest pit of despair any Hunn has ever felt.
"You win, Champion. We will make no more war upon the humans."
The Rhino went back to the door and told the others to come out. "It's safe now, they're gone."
The crowd surrounded The Rhino. "We watched the whole thing. What did you tell him that made him laugh?"
"I told him that I was hung like 2 Hunn."
"And to make him cry?"
"I showed him."

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Fluffy mutters...

Posted February 27, 2015
Reading Resistance now. Dude, I fucking love these books. Funnier than the possibility of George Bush Junior getting re-elected. Oh, wait. Never mind that. The books are funny. I'm glad I gave up television years ago, so I can read obsessively and discover cool authors and fun stories. Between that and the hookers and blow, I have all the entertainment I need.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted February 27, 2015
Now Fluffy is my new favourite.

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GhostSwirv would have you know...

Posted February 28, 2015

I take possession of my very own copy of Resistance on Tuesday, courtesy of my own careful forward planning regarding the employment placement of an offspring.

If it can match the excitement and sheer brilliance of the latest fan fiction tomes them I think we're in for a ripping good read and a splodey night in.

GhostSwirv over and out

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Nice review in the SMH

Posted January 24, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

By Cameron Woodhead, no less. Who normally likes his books impenetrably thinky.

14 Responses to ‘Nice review in the SMH’

pete puts forth...

Posted January 24, 2015
Woodhead. Forgive me, a random thought.

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damian has opinions thus...

Posted January 24, 2015
Nice one. If you'd held a gun on me last month and forced me to write a review, this is pretty close to what I might have written.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted January 24, 2015
"Not original enough?"JB look away & waterproof your pockets.I've read maybe 150 history books. Never found one vaguely like Leviathon. Not in theme, structure nor narrative. I almost gave it up around P30 as it was So out of the ordinary.
I've read N articles on foreign policy, never one with the tanto-like cut through of Appeasing Djakarta.
HDWAFIHH describes grunge & slacker culture >10 years before Mud Honey. I still don't know of another text that acknowledges the important role of brown couches on late 20th century western civilisation.TBF, not so much.
WoC is for me a story about societal change while greed & self interest are the Fuel of any era, leavened with xtra choice 'Splodey. I've read the 1st battle a dozen or more times.
And who bought The Rhino to a world so desperately in need of one?
Pfft. Original?

damian ducks in to say...

Posted January 25, 2015
Meh, I skipped that first sentence -- was halfway through a bottle of wine on top of 6 bright belgians and some cider when reading this last night. Agree with Bob's remarks per originality, pushing the boundaries of form (or genre) and all that.
Guess I was distracted by the Vogon reference: many of the younger crowd now are familiar with HHGTTG (rather than merely Harry Potter) so they come across as knowledgeable.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted January 25, 2015

I often suspect this blog would blow over .05 on a Friday or Saturday night.

How do the USAnians do it, walk the line, touch your nose, recite the alphabet backwards?

Rhino mutters...

Posted January 27, 2015
NBob ... we do it with panache. That's how.

NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted January 27, 2015
I wouldn't expect it to be otherwise.

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Murphy reckons...

Posted January 25, 2015
Love the Vogon reference.

Now we just need a certain as yet unnamed Hunn to recite poetry while engaged in battle with The Dave.
Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Halwes has opinions thus...

Posted January 25, 2015
Just got back from Sydney and my copy from Pulp Fiction was here waiting. I've devoured a couple of chapters and am loving it. Saw the book with a prominent display in Dymocks George St and at Mascot Airport prominently on the top shelf. Hope you are moving a few. Sydney is fucked. I visited quite a few old friends and all of them had some kind of ice horror story that had affected their kids or their kids friends. Man that stuff is bad. One beautiful little girl that I last saw 20 years ago when she was 8 was completely fucked on it and will never work again. All she wants to do is score and it's pretty cheap too which I suppose is the main attraction. You can't find pot easily but everyone wants to sell you fucken ice. I think we are in trouble and that's from an old anti prohibitionist like myself. What did we expect though.? We became so good at prohibiting the recreational drugs that our highly intelligent and resourcesful kids just went at made their own.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted January 25, 2015
I presume that "ice" is meth.

How horrible, mate. I am so very sorry to hear that it is doing to you what it did and is doing to us.

Halwes mutters...

Posted January 25, 2015
Yes I think it's the same poison. One mate spoke for two hours about what it had done to his beautiful family and it was a true horror story. He'd worked so hard to get those kids housed and educated and thought he was on the home straight to get them into work, relationships etc when his family was completely torn apart. I think I'll stay in the bush.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted January 25, 2015

What people seem to fail to grasp is; Ice / Meth was crafted, designed, engineered. As much as a BMW or a novel. It wasn't just laying around. Some Fcker actually invented it. Then the recipe spread through the western world.

But if you think meth is bad (destroying people, families, communities) you aint seen nothing yet.

The profound revolutions in neuroscience & the global dissemination of that information, the amazing developments in synthetic chemistry, + Non-state unregulated actors with nefarious porpoises and access to the knowledge and capacity are combining into a perfect storm of drugs of abuse.

Word I hear is that India, Bangkok & southern China are experiencing ODs, narcotic induced psychoses, and related behaviours like they've never seen before. Some of the Rape Culture in India can be attributed to this.

I know no better way to enslave someone than to get them addicted to a drug of abuse. Intelect, upbringing, moral rectitude nothing makes one immune from addiction. Information can help break down taboos & encourage users to seek help, but no-one ever gave up anything because of a brochure explaining the potential harm.

Now it would seem some Non State actors are deliberately setting out to develop the Next Big Thing.

Dangerous days ahead.

Halwes, until reading & listening about the above, I was as anti-prohibition as yourself. Now I'm just scared.

I strongly doubt poor old Guv-O-Saurus can respond in anything even approximating an effective way.

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Halwes reckons...

Posted January 25, 2015
I'm glad I'm not bringing up teenagers anymore. I've seen seasoned pot smokers on the floor crying for their mother after smoking that Kronic shit so I'm sure your comments about synthetics are very well informed. This, as you point out, is pretty scary. I do think though that, if we didn't have such a harsh prohibition on pot, then people may still be just smoking that instead of the synthetic crap. I know there are people that say pot causes mental illness but it doesn't seem to do the damage that the synthetics do. The only problem I ever had with pot when I was a fun loving teenager was cops.

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Guru Bob has opinions thus...

Posted January 27, 2015
That review was in The Age down here as well...

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Without Warning is book of the week at Googleplay

Posted January 22, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

Not to be outdone by iBooks, el Goog is giving away the end of the world for only $4.99

Megadeath and good times for less than the price of a cheeseburger.

Serving 'em up here.

3 Responses to ‘Without Warning is book of the week at Googleplay’

Rhino ducks in to say...

Posted January 22, 2015
Time to engage another generation of Rhino fans ... And some love for that gaggle of secondary, supporting characters as well.

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Murphy puts forth...

Posted January 22, 2015
Totally!

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Bangar is gonna tell you...

Posted January 22, 2015
How does that price affect the bottom line? Considering that printing the book is the cheaper part of it's price who is losing out?

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It's not often I share space with Tim Blair, but

Posted January 14, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

... The Dave did muscle his way into the Tele, today. I await my invite to drinks in the Columnists Executive Lounge.

8 Responses to ‘It's not often I share space with Tim Blair, but’

pitpat would have you know...

Posted January 14, 2015

That is fantastic. I have been waiting for the lit crit view where the book is called a misandrist diatribe with a responding article calling it a misogynists diary. With this piece I guess the wait is over, the Tele will surely explore the complex sub-text and the post modern paradigm shift that signals humanities existential angst in the perennial battle of the other that is so eloquently expressed in Emergence.

And if not I hope there is a noticeable increase in sales.

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WarDog is gonna tell you...

Posted January 14, 2015
Congrats John :-)But where the fuck is the next one already ..

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Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 14, 2015
Drinks were made, but they disappeared after a mysterious figure in a ashen coloured robe wandered through the lounge. The glasses now all contain what appears to be traces of rodent droppings, and the mostly empty bottles now smell, frankly, of rats piss.

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Rhino would have you know...

Posted January 14, 2015
OK ... looking for this on The Telegraphs site and zip, zilch, nada. 14,438 articles in the last weeks about JK Rowling and Harry Potter ... but no #TheDave. WTF?

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted January 14, 2015
Hmm must be premium content.

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Rhino reckons...

Posted January 14, 2015
Welll .. that's fucked twice tonight with no dinner. No wonder I'm feeling a stogie coming on.

Dick asserts...

Posted January 14, 2015
Lucky bastard

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peter in the bleaches is gonna tell you...

Posted January 15, 2015
I also tried to find it online at King Ruperts Sydney version of the truth and accurate reporting and could not find it. Any chance of a link?

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Smashdragons reviews The Dave

Posted January 12, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

One of the nicest reviews yet.

"So where do I begin… I fucking loved this book!!! It is evil… evil and hilariously entertaining. Birmingham has someone managed to craft a tale that is not only morrish and addictive but also hilariously dark and offensive at the same time. I can’t recall laughing as much as I did from reading Emergence (raging demon boners and Dave’s facebook statuses spring to mind as examples of humour… seriously… you have to read it to understand)."

15 Responses to ‘Smashdragons reviews The Dave’

Rob ducks in to say...

Posted January 12, 2015

really loving emergence. Love all the in jokes and JB motifs running through the book. Especially the discussion with Dave and getting out the old persuader and the nurse.

I did in fact laugh out loud, when my wife asked what I was laughing about, I told her and she laughed too. So she will read it after I'm done.

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Sennafumi is gonna tell you...

Posted January 12, 2015
For the lazy readers... Emergence audio-book version?
(and for the love of God, not Scott Brick - maybe Ray Porter, he does the smart arse hero thing well)

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted January 12, 2015
Couple months I reckon. I don't choose the narrators. I do like the guy who does Stephen King's The Stand.

Sennafumi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 13, 2015
Getting off-topic but....
Who chooses the narrator?
And whilst I am thinking of it, who chooses the production company?
Do industry powerhouses like King have the power to rule in these decisions regarding their own work?

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Halwes mutters...

Posted January 12, 2015
my copy had'nt arrived when I left home for Sydney for a couple of days. I am really looking forward to getting into this now. Sydney has taken on a whole new aura since I finished Leviathan recently. There are certainly some ghosts especially around the mass grave site at Wynyard where I'm staying There is a big Emergence display in the front window of Dymocks on Pitt st. Hope you are moving a few units there.

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Matte reckons...

Posted January 12, 2015
Dear John,
For entirely and completely selfish reasons ... have you ever considered (and would begging help) releasing ARC copies? I always loved John Ringo for that - there something undeniably sexy about having an 'advanced reader copy' and i am sure we loyal followers would be more than happy to reciprocate by passing on spell check issues ...
Aside from that - please let me add to the choir in saying how much i absolutely and utterly loved this book !!
cheersmatt

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted January 12, 2015
Matt, if I ever signed a deal with Baen, for sure. But my gatekeeper class old skool publishers would have kittens at the very idea.

NBlob mumbles...

Posted January 13, 2015
Interesting "Gatekeeper class" publishers. Like Aegis Class Guided Missile Destroyers. What features of the Gatekeeper Class allow train spotters to identify them? Particularly prominent lunches, forward mounted Anti-Piracy systems, Close In Weapons Systems?

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted January 13, 2015

I think reviews of this sort would really benifit from a few other story metrics to go along with the "I fucking loved this book.." comments. For example before I part with the hard earned (well fairly low level effort earned, I have a white collar job) dollars would like to know:

  • what's the ratio of exposition/explosion(s)?
  • percentage of book devoted to deep reflection on the ulitmate futility of exisistance, the 'French Philosopher Factor. (yes I am looking at you Zone One, promise me zombie apocolypse instead I get a meditation on the human condition ppff!!!
  • snappy Whedonesque dialogue per major character
  • righteous payback on the bad guys/evil monsters/ alien lizards (Harry Turtledove shows how to write the smack on evil space lizards.

needless to say I have already bought the book Birmo, just not going to read it till all three books are out.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted January 13, 2015
Barnsey, ordinarily I am loath to disagree with you - primarily because I am afraid of you - but you should read it now. Half the fun is talking about it with your mates and the wait isn't really very long to wait for the next one.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted January 13, 2015

No I am afraid I cannot as

"I am constant as the northern star, of whose true-fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the firmament. The skies are painted with unumbered sparks. They are all fire and every one doth shire, but there's one on all doth hold his palce. So in the world. 'Tis furnished well with men, and men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive, yet in the number I do know but one that unassailable holds on his rank, unshaken of motion. And that I am he. Let me a little show it even in this."

A famous person said that once. I am sure it ended well for him.

<div class="original-line">

NBlob asserts...

Posted January 13, 2015

Huzzah Sir Huzzah.

A beacon of temperance and solidity In this whipped-cream world of instant self gratification. A dose of abnegation is what this country, Nay this world needs.

More than ever, because we wallow with a surfeit of WiFi sylphs dripping serotonin-stuffed delights in a saturnalia of entertainment and comfort we should deny, straighten, Sparta-ise our existence. Periodically. Within reason.

Anyone want an XL hair shirt? Never used.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted January 13, 2015

Damn Straight!

and here I mean straight in a geometric non-perjoative rather than sexual/gender dynamic sense of the word,

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted January 13, 2015
This bloke is called Smash Dragons.
C'mon JB. You had this bloke's photo on your desk when you were writing this series. Every morning you muttered, 'My friend, this one is for you.' <insert maniacal authorial chuckle as the author's claws rattle across the keys>
Great review, though.

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The superhero moment

Posted January 7, 2015 into Books by John Birmingham

The Evernote folder where I keep all my research for #TheDave is called Magic vs Technology. There are dozens of files in there, ranging from my publishers’ editorial reports, papers on autism and Aspergers, articles clipped from Militarytimes.com (“How the Nation is failing today’s troops and veterans”), to adverts for fire axes and splitting mauls, and a glossary where I keep track of the madness:

“Diwan; Sliveen priestess. Diwanum (pl)

Gurikh: warrior spirit…

Shieldwise, is on the right, because demons are all left handed…”

I maintain my own monsterpedia in there, with entries about the biology of threshrendum, the culture of the Horde, the evolution of demon mythology in Japan. There are Youtube videos of .50cal Beowulf machine-guns, infographics on oil exploration, and clips of text that I need to remain aware of for the purposes of continuity:

“It had been an age since the lord commander had called upon the Archivum Scolari. It was not far removed from his quarters, being directly accessible from the Lord’s Keep by any one of five bridges which reached between the two towers.” - from Ascendance.

Magic vs Technology is my personal Archivum Scolari, but it is misnamed is it not? The Brits, I think, got the truth of it in their series title. Dave vs the Monsters. Or, perhaps appealing to the power of archetype, The Superhero vs the Monsters.

As much as I set out to write a magic versus technology story (in part to address my frustrations with Dr Who, and in part to grin knowingly at the old SciFi vs Fantasy feud) #TheDave is less about dragons being shot down by heat seekers, and more of a traditional superhero story. There are plenty of dragons getting shot down by heat seekers, of course, and whole regiments of orcs destroyed by… well, you’ll have to wait.

But in all of this it’s telling the way Marvel has come to dominate the box office. Throw in DC and the virtual superhero series such as Bond and Bourne, along with the rise of the female superhero (often a spy or a soldier turned spy), and you’ll being to discern a deep and powerful tidal flow through our mass culture. Why are we drawn to these stories? I suspect for the same reason people were drawn to comedy during the Great Depression. For relief from our reality.

For an ordinary viewer or reader, the story of a simple and inevitably flawed individual, embiggened into heroic status is irresistible. It may be hard, if not impossible, to imagine getting out from under a crushing mortgage, or a terrible boss, but strangely easy and undeniably attractive to lose ourselves in a fantasy where we experience not just competence and autonomy but the most extreme forms of those states.

It’s not a wish fulfilment exclusive to superhero comic stories of course. I remember talking to Peter Corris about his private detective character, Cliff Hardy, and Pete quite happily admitted that in Hardy (whose stories are always told in the first person) he had a character who allowed him to be everything he was not. Hardy is tough as old boot leather. Hardy can throw and more importantly take a punch. Women are drawn to Hardy like moths to a flame, often to be burned.

Hardy, of course, comes out of a different tradition to someone like Dave, who postdates by many decades the social revolutions that made a lot of earlier heroes completely unacceptable to modern audiences. (Paging Captain Biggles!) Hardy is an heir to Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and perfectly described in Chandler’s essay The Simple Art of Murder:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid… He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”

This is a pitch perfect description of Cliff Hardy, but in many ways the antithesis of Dave, who is far from being "the best man in his world" and more than capable of being mean and afraid. He is neither complete, nor honourable, and certainly not by instinct. Is Heath any of the things Chandler wanted in a hero? Yes, all of them. Zach? Without a doubt. Emmeline? Even more so, because she, like Heath, transcends the conditions that might otherwise hold her back.

But Dave? Nope. Dave starts out a flawed and very small man who struggles to grow. Sometimes, as we’ll soon learn, he can’t even be bothered struggling. For me this is what makes him such fun to write. It’s not just the opportunity to break taboos (to kick them to pieces in fact, and drag them behind his pick up truck while drinking stolen beer and copping a hundred dollar blowjob with what’s left of his kid’s tuition fees). It’s a chance to see what happens when someone like that has a hero's responsibility forced upon them. And not just the average, tedious, grinding responsibilities of our daily lives. But the weight of the entire world. In this he shares something with thresh, as more than one of you have pointed out.

Neither of them are well suited to their fate.

64 Responses to ‘The superhero moment’

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted January 7, 2015
D&D (and RPGs generally) have always had content based around Wizards versus Hi-Tech. The game Shadowrun is basically Cyberpunk Orcs, Elven hackers, and tech'd out Dragons. There are several D&D/Pathfinder games involving sword and sorcery types encountering the survivors of a starship crash. There are also inumerable steampunk technology meets magic settings (DragonMech involves gigantic steampunk mecha fighting dragons).

Where most of these fall down is that while the world building is interesting - the characters that inhabit those worlds and their narrative paths are often not.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2015
Have you seen the new Star Trek/Planet of the Apes comic? It's pretty good. Bought it last night.

Blarkon mumbles...

Posted January 7, 2015
Picked it up on your recco. First issue was strong (though dunno how the 1701 got to Qo'noS without a cloak and it's a little hard to see how the Klingon's plan will benefit them in the "original" universe.

Other Trek crossovers haven't been great - The Dr Who one was a bit of a wash. So I guess we'll see where this one goes.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted January 7, 2015

" It’s a chance to see what happens when someone like that has a hero's responsibility forced upon them"

another example of this I would recommend is David Wong's "John Dies at the End" but in particular I would point to the example in the sequel "this book is full of spiders" (alternatively titled 'John and Dave and the Temple of X'al'naa'thuthuthu') where Amy contrast the experience of how her boyfriend and his buddy deal with nameless horrors from another dimension in contrast with a bunch of wannabe zombie hunters when the real zombie apocalypse comes.

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Murphy swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2015
Tom Hardy should play Dave.
He'd be perfect.
Respects,MurphOn the Outer Marches

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Blake swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2015
"It’s a chance to see what happens when someone like that has a hero's responsibility forced upon them...."
I get the impression BtVS tried to play with similar themes of forced responsibility, Buffy was always angsting about her missed teen life and all this forced responsibility, except that to be the tv superhero she had to underneath really be the right girl for the job, she just had to work through the teen angst issues to work it out. (kind of a cop out the way it ended given that theme)For the second attempt there was Faith who could play the bad girl, but they went down the path of reformer rather than revelling in the bad. In some ways you could say Firefly played with it as well, less responsibility/superhero but 'the wrong people doing the right things'
Its kind of ironic that the thing that interests me in heroes is their failings

Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
Agreed. Firefly / Serenity: "Now we're just people".

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GhostSwirv is gonna tell you...

Posted January 7, 2015


You've tossed the BirmoHorde a few bones JB with the reveals on the Sliveen Priestess, warrior spill-it and that left-handers are all demons, (thanks very much), not to overlook a nice array of heavy ordinance.

I think Murph has nailed the casting with Tom Hardy as TheDave, better prary Fury Road spirals down into Angst Lane, otherwise Tom won't be available due to scheduling clashes with the two sequels Dr. George is planning.

I also like the Firefly connection raised by Blake - scarred survivors trying to fly under the radar, forced by circumstances to face the old foe

... oh no wait, how 'bout Nathan Fillion as The Dave.

He's got the comic timing from all that Castling and we know he's got that anger and self-loathing from all that Mal, especially when he's wearing a little bonnet.

GhostSwirv over and out to review all 8 Eps of Firefly, oh as well as re-reading Emergence of course.


Sudragon would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2015
Plus Mr Fillion has experience playing a superhero, so that's another point in his favour. He might have to get Hugh Jackman's trainer to get him into SuperDave shape though, last episode of Castle I saw that he's put on some weight since Firefly.

GhostSwirv mutters...

Posted January 8, 2015

My point exactly, add a few more pounds to Castle, shave the head, 10 x day growth and there's TheDave.

Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 9, 2015
Then hold production for a while as a team of highly trained sadists whip him into SuperDave?

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted January 7, 2015
" It’s a chance to see what happens when someone like that has a hero's responsibility forced upon them"
I really like that. It is kind of the point of fantasy fiction. The hero is ordinary but has magic thrust upon them, the magic often a baffling and unwelcome curse that brings the expectation of heroic action. Who me?!!
The magic meaning the hero can be very ordinary and not have secret ninja skills etc.
Bilbo or Frodo Baggins - just insular villagers
Thomas Covenant - The hero, a bitter and diseased man whose first action is to rape the nice young woman who first helps him.
etc, etc.

Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2015
And of course Rincewind, the inept and cowardly wizard from the Discworld books who longs for a safe, quiet and comfortable life and continually gets dropped into showdowns for the fate of the world very much against his will.

I can't find the passage, but there's that lovely monologue where he's brooding glumly as he gets ready for one such showdown that he's not cut out for this, it probably only counts as proper heroing if you go into it saying "Well, by jingo, we've got to save the world and there's no two ways about it!" instead of "Oh, shit, I am totally going to die".

JG is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2015
'BirmoHorde' - I like that, GhostSwirv. I'm also left handed ('left-handers are all demons': hey!!). Also red haired, so I'd probably have been burnt as a witch in the Middle Ages (cries foul). <font color="#333333">Dave - reluctant superhero - is fabulous because of his many faults. Who wants a shiny shiny man? Laughed so much at Dave being TheDave. </font>

Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2015
Rincewind's motto, according to one of the illustrated guides to the Discworld (and perhaps Interesting Times), is "Stercus, stercus, stercus, moriturus sum"

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Pete would have you know...

Posted January 7, 2015
yeah ... but he should get a grip on the ax, don't you reckon!

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Sparty asserts...

Posted January 7, 2015
OMG - a trek apes cross oevr- how did i not know!
" Get (PAUSE) your (LONGER PAUSE) Damn sticking Klingon paws off me"

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Sparty puts forth...

Posted January 7, 2015
oh and the pedantic nerd in me questions if James Bigglesworth DSO was ever a Captain, I think the Royal Flying Corp morphed into the RAF before he would have and the rank doesn't exist in the RAF. I think he topped out at Wing Commander.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted January 8, 2015
The first Biggles story was the short story 'The White Fokker'. The second story was 'The Packet' in which Biggles is promoted to Captain because of his deeds in the ‘The White Fokker’. It is reasonable to conclude from the stories that these events occurred in 1917, making the rank of Captain quite feasible.

Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted January 8, 2015
I believe this was also mentioned in Biggles Takes It Rough which was originally titled Biggles Flies Undone. (NB: one of these is a real title.)

Anthony ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2015
I just checked with my copy of "The Camels are Coming" and Biggles is promoted from Acting Captain to Major with effect from 10.11.18.

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
And, peaking of flawed heroes it's also where Biggles has taken to drinking whisky for breakfast and has had an affair with possible German spy (female of course) and is contemplating how to warn her abut an upcoming air-raid on the Chateau she's staying at.

insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2015
I find your story of the affair with a female spy implausible given the obvious sexual tension between Biggles and Ginger

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Nocturnalist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 7, 2015
There's that quote from Stephen King about how all fantasy fiction is about power. Great fantasy is about people who gain it at great cost or lose it tragically; mediocre fantasy is about people who neither gain nor lose it but simply wield it.

As I get older I get more and more suspicious of generalisations but I still haven't found a convincing counterexample to that one, and it seems to tie in with this conversation reasonably well.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2015
I've never seen that quote but it sounds very like Da King and very smart.

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2015

Its from his thoughts on horror Danse Macabre it also includes on what what your job is "Our job as writers ... The imagination is an eye, a marvelous third eye that floats free. As children, that eye sees with 20/20 clarity. As we grow older, its vision begins to dim...The job of the fantasy writer, or the horror writer, is to bust the walk of that tunnel vision wide for a little while; to provide a single powerful spectacle for the third eye. The job of the fantasy-horror writer is to make you, for a little while, a child again." once again Danse Macabre .

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
Third eye?? Yog-Sothoth save me — the three-lobed burning eye!

Which reminds me - I wonder if the Lovecraftian Elder Gods are going to make an appearance?

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
Nup. We're busy.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 8, 2015
Nonsense you are not busy everyone knows "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn".

Sudragon ducks in to say...

Posted January 8, 2015
The Elder gods are all busy in pre-production for the next two books in Charles Stross' Laundry series.

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
CODE NIGHTMARE GREEN. The three most beautiful words. And really, who wants to be stuck on a cold plateau under a moon with Hitler's face? Bring it on I say.

Sudragon would have you know...

Posted January 8, 2015
"How to tell if your neighbors are zombies and how to build a field expedient basilisk gun from two webcams..."

Nocturnalist reckons...

Posted January 8, 2015
King goes to express the suspicion that said mediocre fantasy is intended as a vicarious trip for people who are short on power themselves: the pasty weakling who's afraid of being rousted by the punks at the bus stop can lose himself in the character of a mighty-muscled, sword-swinging barbarian slaying all who get in his way.

(I suspect it's not just fantasy that offers a strain of that.)

It's not a flattering observation, but I think King is documenting something he's felt as much as anyone. There are some in-character moments in his books that are too sharp. I'm thinking mainly of clumsy, dorky. fretful Thad Beaumont having to admit to himself that he's envious of George Stark's violent sociopathy because of how strong and simple it makes him. But there are others.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted January 8, 2015
I'm surprised no-one has mentioned the best example of the "Accidental Superhero". It is of course Ralph Hinkley, a mild mannered high school teacher portrayed by William Katt in "The Greatest American Hero".

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted January 9, 2015
But Ralph Hinkley wasn't an accidental superhero. Aliens chose him to wear the super suit (they just forgot to give him an instruction manual). That isn't accidental - it is ironic.

insomniac asserts...

Posted January 9, 2015
What is the ratio of accidental to nonaccidental superheroes?

Is Superman an accidental superhero? What if he ended up on a planet where he was significantly weaker and slower than its inhabitants?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted January 9, 2015
I never in all my life thought I would be involved in such a discussion.

Superman's parents sent him to earth knowing he would be a god.

Steve Rogers became a super soldier due to a treatment designed to create super soldiers.

Batman made himself into Batman.

The Silver Surfer chose to become Galactus' herald.

Accidental involves lack of purpose, design or volition.

Peter Parker got bit by a spider. It could have bitten anyone.

Barry Allen got hit by lightening at the same time he was bathed in chemicals. That accident gave him super speed.

The Fantastic Four got hit by unanticipated cosmic radiation - and Ben Grimm always considered his transformation to be a curse.

Some heroes achieve greatness. Others have greatness thrust upon them. Dave Hooper had greatness thrust upon him.

At least that's the way it appears right now. Who knows what this may turn out to be?

Sudragon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 9, 2015
And some, like Tony Stark, build it in a cave, with a a box of scraps!

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted January 9, 2015

Thats a remarkably perspicacious obsevation on the nature of taxonomy of heroic archetypes.

Posting stuff like this makes me wish you had more time/desire to write.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted January 9, 2015
I hate writing. Writing is so obvious, so bourgeois, so boring.

Barnesm asserts...

Posted January 9, 2015
Oh how about hosting a late night television program then, extemporaneously.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted January 9, 2015
I did that in the late 1980's - the Paul Boylan Good Time Happy Carnival
Techno Boom-Boom Hour.

It was a disaster. No one took me seriously.

insomniac reckons...

Posted January 9, 2015
I saw that once. Don't take this as overt criticism of your work, but I think pants would have helped.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted January 9, 2015
I hate pants. Pants are so obvious, so bourgeois, so boring.

NBlob asserts...

Posted January 9, 2015
With pants come dignity.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted January 10, 2015
Bitter experience forces me to agree.

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Sparty has opinions thus...

Posted January 8, 2015
I stand corrected sir. (probobly). Depends which Fokker (Eindekker or DR7) was the white one. Hard to write a sentence involving Biggles with out some innuendo forcing its way in.....

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Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted January 8, 2015
Short on the time needed for a good coherent reply at length so some quick grabs will have to do.

+++strangely easy and undeniably attractive to lose ourselves in a fantasy
where we experience not just competence and autonomy but the most
extreme forms of those states.+++

Interesting anecdote from John Rogers about the making of his caper-thriller serial Leverage. He was worried that the scenes where his cast plan their elaborate heist/con/caper of the week were taking up too much episode time compared to the actual action, but when he did a bit of audience research it turned out that was one of the viewers' favourite parts of the show. They loved what he came to call "competence porn", seeing smart, capable people at the top of their fields do their thing, cool, calm and in control.

Of course, if they're never anything other than cool, calm and in control you don't have too much of a story, but the revelation was that those scenes were rewarding and enjoyable for the audience in their own right, as well as just exposition devices and ways to demonstrate the character's abilities so that their later setbacks had something to push against.

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Nocturnalist is gonna tell you...

Posted January 8, 2015
+++a deep and powerful tidal flow through our mass culture... for the same reason people were drawn
to comedy during the Great Depression. For relief from our reality... It may
be hard, if not impossible, to imagine getting out from under a
crushing mortgage, or a terrible boss, but strangely easy and undeniably
attractive to lose ourselves in a fantasy where we experience not just
competence and autonomy but the most extreme forms of those states.+++

Pratchett again: there's a lovely, fiery monologue in The Truth about ordinary people stuck in lives mostly run by other people, and how they need to have something outside those lives to look out at.

I think that this overlaps with the appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction, or at least one ingredient or type of appeal. It goes for the same nerve point, inviting you to imagine yourself kicking free of all the stifling day-to-day crap and becoming the larger-than-life badass you're sure you ought to be.

Superhero stories (lapping for purposes of this point into Chosen One stories like Harry Potter et al) accomplish this by bringing in an extraordinary circumstance that lifts the protagonist up out of their banal life; post-apocalyptic lit gets effectively the same result by smashing everything else down so that the protag is made special by default, just by being alive.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted January 9, 2015
My superhero moment came yesterday when I read about this bloke in Brisbane attending a political rally wearing an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt with an arrow on it pointing to his left, who got arrested for waving at the opposition and turning to point the arrow on his chest towards them.

That guy - whoever he is, wherever he may be - is my new hero. God bless you, guy wearing I'm With Stupid" t-shirt. Your heroism almost tops that munter in Brisbane a long time ago who got arrested for displaying a sign reading "free speech."

What is it about Brisbane that brings this out in people?

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2015
Some members of our police force feel an intense fidelity and protectiveness for politicians who sharply increase police powers.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted January 9, 2015
If there is any sentence that was said in every human language that ever existed, but extant, dead and yet to come it is the sentence you just typed.

I am hoping this guy appears in a crowd scene at the very least in one of the E-books that are sure to follow (although I've heard AoT E-book rumors for a very, very long time).

Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted January 9, 2015
The gentleman in question has a Twitter account which he uses to taunt some of our most entitled young Conservatives. One of those was present when he did his t-shirt thing and while most of them smiled with him, that fellow had a look of undisguised hatred which you can see for yourself in the news shots. No doubt he also has more access than we peasants to whistle up 10 coppers and a van to arrest a non-violent middle class prankster. But that's Qld. Tough on humour, tough on the causes of humour.

Sudragon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2015
And we all know the police, especially the Queensland police have no sense of humour.

ShaneAlpha swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 9, 2015
I beg to differ, they do have a sense of humour, they're just not allowed to show it.
And it's a much sharper sense of humour then you would think.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted February 2, 2015
And now we have it, from the above mentioned 'Not Campbell Newman' twitter prankster, the poignant last tweet:- "Fuckity bye !"

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted February 2, 2015
Fuckity bye, indeed. We will miss you, Not Campbell Newman - until you surface again through another persona. Your true work is far from done.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted February 2, 2015
Please do not tell my wife I commented here. She told me not to encourage you.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted January 9, 2015
Queensland. Cletusland one day, Cletusland the next.To be avoided. Yee haw!

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insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted January 13, 2015
It's a little OT but this is the closest thread at present.
Does anyone else think that Elon Musk is a real life Jeff Tracy from Thunderbirds, given stuff like this?

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Propnut ducks in to say...

Posted February 2, 2015

JB, loved the book! really truly! Well enough smoke blowing up your proverbial. Spotted a tiny, minor technical error (dont know if its already been advised but...) on (I think - im at work & book is sitting nicely on shelf at home) page 315, 2nd paragraph from bottom - Cobra gunships do not have a <STRONG>door </STRONG>gunner. Yes they have a gunner for the mini gun / grenade launcher and nice stub wings which contain 2 weapon hard points per side but sorry no door gunner. To 99.95% of the human population not a biggie, just a detail to be spotted by military nerds.



John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 2, 2015
Hi Propnut. You're not the first to spot that, which is annoying because I actually know the Cobra has no door gunner. It must have snuck in during the edit. We'll chop it in re-issues. It's very annoying.

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insomniac is gonna tell you...

Posted February 2, 2015
I put on a shirt the other day, and as I went to do up the buttons, the seam across the shoulders came apart. I am obviously, and up-to-now unaware of being, The Hulk.

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