Cheeseburger Gothic

The Change. Coming next June

Posted October 30, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth (Change Series)

As many of my own books as I have coming out next year (hint: heaps) this anthology set in Steve's Emberverse is one I'm looking forward to most of all.

It's a double alternate history, a crossover of sorts with The Disappearance. You'll get to spend a little time again with Fifi, Jules and Pete as they raid the tomb city of Sydney. It's not a short story. I think the final version logged in at about 18 000 words, close enough to most writers idea of an ebook as makes no difference. And it was hella fun to write.

Thing I'm most looking forward to though is deep diving into all the other stories. I love the Emberverse series and there's some awesome word wranglers playing in it here.

?

Pete steered them carefully through the sunken and half-sunken vessels that still lay about Farm Cove. The largest was a paddle steamer, a floating restaurant she supposed, that had gone down in front of the old governor’s residence. Tiny waves lapped at the paddles halfway up the giant wooden wheel and slowly poured through the broken windows on the second deck. Only the upper third was completely free of inundation and she watched it closely for signs of movement. As they wove around the abandoned hulls of smaller power craft, their course took them close enough to the flat bottomed steamer to make of them a perfect target, even for rock throwers. The old hulks clinked and creaked in the nor’easter. Magpies and crows cawed and cackled at one another, and somewhere nearby a kookaburra began to laugh. She startled at an enormous black bat that flapped close overhead, its leathery wings sounding just like the whuffling snap of sails in a moderate breeze.
“Bugger me,” she breathed. “This is less fun than the brochure promised.”
“Too late for a refund,” came Pete’s voice softly. “See to the sails, Julesy.”

39 Responses to ‘The Change. Coming next June’

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted October 30, 2014

The important question, is Rhino in it. That'll make it sell.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted October 30, 2014
I, Boylan, approve. I feel privileged to be present for the convergence of such ultra coolness.

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Surtac mumbles...

Posted October 30, 2014


June? Fraking June?

Still, Birmo and WoJo both. Yes I'll be buying it. Sigh.

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Peter Bradley ducks in to say...

Posted October 30, 2014
Looks like a fair amount of my time in 2015 is going to be spent in a number of incarnations of the Birmoverse.

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Bunyip reckons...

Posted October 30, 2014
I think I just had some movement....

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Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted October 30, 2014
Is Jules, is good. Books are definitely the go as you get older. Marvel has announced movies for 2018 and 2019 with the Avengers, Thanos and Guardians of the Galaxy tie ins. I can't wait that long!
Also - OT but harking back to an earlier blog - SyFy channel has admitted that making cheap crap was a bad idea and committed to more high quality series, including:
• The Expanse. Series, 10 episodes. Based on the series of books by James S.A. Corey, a thriller set two hundred years in the future, The Expanse
follows the case of a missing young woman who brings a hardened
detective and a rogue ship's captain together in a race across the solar
system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history. No date.
That may have been mentioned here before and I missed the memo or forgot but there you go. Also Clarke's "Childhoods End" with Charles Dance.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted October 30, 2014
Yeah. I saw that. Was gonna post something about it.

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Therbs asserts...

Posted October 30, 2014
That's gonna be some fun page turnin'.

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Rob mutters...

Posted October 30, 2014
sweet, Turtledove and Birmingham ..two people I would liketo have a beer with. I will just have to down a few beers while reading this.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2014
What if you learned from a reliable source that Turtledove (if that is his real name) has a tendency to drone on and on about the Byzantine Empire? Would that change your mind?

Bunyip is gonna tell you...

Posted October 30, 2014
Cool. We can stick him next to Bob Ellis.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted October 31, 2014
Hold on now: I meant that as an enticement. I personally cannot discuss Byzantine foreign policy enough. It is endlessly interesting, especially when compared to the longevity of the Byzantine system to that of the Romans.

Bunyip has opinions thus...

Posted October 31, 2014
PNB, you'll have to pin Ellis in for the other side. It only seems fair (for Bob, at least). I mean, you will have to take one for the team, but I'm sure it will be appreciated.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 31, 2014
Can't I merely have a conversation - perhaps share a little sponge cake, a little wine - with Mr. Turtledove (if that is his real name) and leave Bob out of it? Not that I have anything against Bob, but I have a hunch he doesn't know the Napoleonic Code from the Codex Justinianus (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Rob mutters...

Posted October 31, 2014
I tend to prattle on about punk rock and hating on contemporary artists, public servants and tattoos. so I'm sure I wouldn't notice much with a few beers inside me.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted October 30, 2014
More Pete can only be a good thing.

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Sparty has opinions thus...

Posted October 30, 2014
This I am looking forward to- Birmo is playing in some good company!


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S.M. Stirling reckons...

Posted October 31, 2014
A giant ice statue of Superman appears in one of the stories, a colony of the autistic in another, and there are imperialist Venetian Communists in galleys spewing Greek Fire. And one titled "Bernie, Lord of the Apes". Another with attack chihuahuas and Aztec obsidian cellphones. All sorts of good stuff.

I admit to a special fondness for John's, though. I had missed Pete and Jules and FiFi.

Anthony swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 1, 2014

I would never make a librarian, I am unable to keep my bookshelves in any sort of order**. As a result I have to trawl through the shelves when I want to find a book. However I just looked up from where I was reading this and realised that next to each other on the shelves are Dies the Fire and Weapons of Choice... Very strange coincidence.


** and I don't have orange fur.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted October 31, 2014
"and there are imperialist Venetian Communists in galleys spewing Greek Fire...."

What a tired cliche.

Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2014
Il compagno, so che sei stanco, ma tenere a remi.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted November 3, 2014
Vaffanculo. Tu non sei il mio capo. Mi fermerò a remi se voglio.

Bunyip reckons...

Posted November 3, 2014
Bene allora. [mangia tutto il tiramisù]

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2014
Do you have any idea how lucky it is for you that I don't enjoy tiramisu?

Lulu swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2014
Dov'e la fermata?

(which I remember because it was the only time I *had* to use Italian in Italy; one result of sticking to the tourist areas)

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted November 3, 2014
Non ci sono autobus. Questo è un paese povero.

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted November 3, 2014
Il tuo aliscafo è pieno di anguille.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted November 3, 2014
You've gone too far, buddy. It is time to end this:

Non voglio parlare con te più, è animale mangiatoia tergicristallo testa vuota. I scoreggiare nella vostra direzione generale. Tua madre era un criceto e tuo padre puzzava di elderberries.

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TexasTeaserPony mutters...

Posted November 1, 2014
These guys need to write more and more often.

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Anthony puts forth...

Posted November 1, 2014
And what happened to King Birmo of Darwin?

Darth Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 1, 2014
(Shhh. Deposed by his son. It involved crocodiles. We don't talk about it.)

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JG would have you know...

Posted November 2, 2014
Glad to hear that Fifi is alive and well again in this book. And Jules. Both great characters. Ever seeing Caitlin again? She was my fave (and Rhino) in the Without Warning trilogy.

I don't know how I'm going to read all these new books in 2015. That's four for you, JB, counting the Dave/Monsters series. Jeepers. The pressure's on to read more next year.

JG

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S.M. Stirling has opinions thus...

Posted November 3, 2014
Alas, Caitlin would be SOL without high-tech medicine.

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JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 4, 2014
Caitlin was a noble bearer of pain, S.M.S. A hardcore steely heroine. I look forward to reading your story also in The Change - you being a loyal CBG follower (Burger). I have not yet read any of your work. Congrats on being the editor of what I think will be a most entertaining book.

JG

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted November 5, 2014
Red, I recommend starting with Island in the Sea of Time. That is what I started with and I reread it (and its sequels) at least once a year.

And each time - each time - it leaves me sad it is done and wishing for more sequels.

JG mumbles...

Posted November 5, 2014
Thanks for that, Paul. Noted.
Joanna

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Guy asserts...

Posted November 5, 2014
Liked Jules lots. She's assertive without Caitlin's regretable homicidal tendencies.

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I never got past the insect nookie in China Mieville

Posted October 29, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

And now I don't have to because Tor has published this nifty guide to the scary man's fictional realms.

China Miéville’s presence looms over genre fiction. Over the course of a dozen books, Miéville has ranged freely across categories and classifications – epic and urban fantasy, social and hard science fiction, crime, horror and more. And in each case, he addresses, dances with, pokes at and, ultimately, departs from, the traditions and expectations therein. Although many thousands of words have been written trying to put Miéville’s work into neat buckets (“New Weird!” “Fantastika!” “Literary Speculation!” “Hauntological Slipstream!” “Tentacular Metafusion!”), time has proven that a China Miéville book is ultimately, well – Miévillian. The man is a category unto himself.

They've got hand little McNugget sized write ups of all his main novels, and they're almost enough to get me to read them. But I can't get past the insect nookie. I think it was in Perdido Street Station.

No pressure, but Perdido Street Station (2000) is probably the Single Best Fantasy Ever Written. And part of that is because it contains, as Whitman said, ‘multitudes’. A disgruntled scientist and his allies – including a de-winged hawkperson, rebellious, um, steampunk cyborgs?, a bug-headed artist, and a badger – all tackle one of the great mysteries of the universe. Also, a shamelessly corrupt government. And nightmarish dream-eating insects. Also contains: adorably traditional adventuring parties, robot mobsters, the Ambassador of Hell, swashbuckling mantis-armed bandits, shapeless horrors, and Devices That Tamper With the Stuff of Reality. All set in the bizarre and ceaselessly tantalising metropolis of New Crobuzon.

Thematically, Perdido is just as ambitious, with discussions of free will and agency and the rule of law and rebellion and causality and governance and and and and… you name it, and you can find it in here. If you want the One Book to Bring Them All And in The (Oversized) Paperback Bind Them, this is the one.

24 Responses to ‘I never got past the insect nookie in China Mieville’

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted October 29, 2014
yeah I've tried with a couple of his novels and it just seems pointless to me though Tentacular Metafusion is my new favourite genre catagory.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted October 29, 2014
It's all the tentacles which put a fellow off.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted October 30, 2014
Drax: You! Man who has lain with an Askervarian.

Peter: It was one time, man.


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Spanner is gonna tell you...

Posted October 29, 2014
You had me at tentacles.

I'm not a pervert! Stop looking at me like that.

Don't judge me. I'm normal. It's you lot that are the sickos.

Darth Greybeard is gonna tell you...

Posted October 29, 2014
Not only tentacles you evil Wrench. I posted a revealing photo of you on twitter last night. With your "friend".

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted October 29, 2014
Ooh. Does Spanner's "friend", have a "sibling"? Asking for a, um... close relative.

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Surtac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 29, 2014


I had no problems with the insect nookie per se, but some of the other imagery was disturbing as I recall.

I found that by the time I'd got through the first 200 pages he'd done most of the world-building and the story could properly start, which I seem to recall it did at that point. And of course the worldbuilding he did in Perdido Street Station was re-used in The Scar and in The Iron Council.

I'm on record elsewhere as being a bit of a fan of his work. I've generally liked most of his books. I thought The City and the City thoroughly deserved its' Hugo Award, and King Rat and Kraken are two of the best examples of London phantasmagoria I've yet read.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 29, 2014
Insect Nookie was the name of my punk rock band back in the early 1980's.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 29, 2014
And we mourn its passing onto the endless dinner-theatre tour.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted October 29, 2014
Dinner-theatre can be dispiriting. The last time Insect Nookie played I was walking through the venue during a break and someone asked me if I could give them my autograph and get them some more butter.

NBlob puts forth...

Posted October 29, 2014
Would it have killed you? Geeze

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 30, 2014
I told Buzz-Kill, the band's bassoon player, to get that lady some more butter. He lives to serve.

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trib reckons...

Posted October 29, 2014
Go back and read Perdido. Really.

However, if you can't deal with bug sex, go with WTF Central Europe in The City and The City. Just super good. And no bugs.

damian asserts...

Posted October 29, 2014
Second this. There's so much in Perdido and the others in the series. The City and the City is just amazing, too. But I only got into Mieville after reading about how he got into a fight with Eric S. Raymond.

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Blarkon would have you know...

Posted October 29, 2014
City and the City was fucking amazing. When I groked what was going on I thought to myself "you clever evil clever smart talented bastard".

dweeze asserts...

Posted October 30, 2014
++1
I also still retain a great fondness for The Scar. However, I've pretty much given up on CM because I cant be arsed any more.reading half a book just to set up a world.
Paulo Bacigalupi(?) FTW...

Surtac puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2014


Nah. Bacigalupi was just ripping off Ian McDonald as far as I could tell, and not doing it anywhere near as well.

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Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted October 29, 2014
Animated snot balls did it for me.

Frankly, I found him to be pretty exasperating to read. Pretty much everything inspired by E. P. Thompson. If I want to read Thompson, I'll read Thompson, not China.

Him and KSR are two writers I do not waste my time on anymore.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 30, 2014
Actually, the progenitor of bug sex is the immortal Jack Vance in his short novel the Last Castile (one of my perennial favs). Although Vance did not describe any bug sex, the insect-women "Phanes" were clearly sexually available to the men and women of that decadent society.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted October 30, 2014
Castle, not Castile. Very different.

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TheWah would have you know...

Posted October 30, 2014
I adore Perdido Street Station. Borrowed it from the library when it was first released. Mieville casually throws down wonderful concepts in this novel that other writers would have spent a full novel fleshing out. The city of New Crobuzon felt richer and more mysterious because of this. Though we were following the main characters the world didn't revolve around them and a multitude of wonders were hidden down each dirty alley way. I ended up buying a collecter's edition of Perdido and it sits on my bookshelf proudly next to my Ian M Banks Culture novels.

The sequel novel, The Scar, was also good, but I wasn't so moved by Iron Council which was also set in Bas Lag. I have friends who argue with me about Iron Council. They tell me its the superior book to Perdido Street Station... they are wrong.

Once someone explained New Crobuzon as Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork but without the comedy. I can see where they are coming from.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2014
It's more like what you'd get if the elements in Ankh-Morpork were actually present in 19th century London. Though the better way to see this is as referring to the same trope of convention or tradition about a mystical city that Pratchett is referring to. Fritz Leiber's stuff comes to mind.

Incidentally, if the insect sex freaks you out, the Leiber story where Fafhrd is screwing a female ghoul doesn't?The ghoul is depicted as a humanoid with invisible soft tissue, so that normally if they are naked, the bones and only the bones are visible. However when sexually aroused the lips, breasts and genitals become pink... Then there's the story where Fafhrd and the grey mouser both impregnate ice princesses...

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When too much Cthulhu is barely enough

Posted October 24, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Open Culture has kindly gathered up all the free HP Lovecraft audio books in existence and bundled them in one terrorlicious post for you download at your convenience.

How many Lovecraft works? Pretty much all of them. The stories have slipped into the public domain and mad fans of the Olde Ones have been recording their own versions. There are also professional readings of everything from The Call of Cthulu to The Dunwich Horror, and a radio dramatization of The Color out of Space.

All the good free stuff is here.

From Open Culture:

The early twentieth century author spent almost his entire life in the New England of his birth, drawing on its many oddities in obscure stories published in pulp magazines—notably the influential Weird Tales. Hypochondriac, hyper-sensitive, and reclusive in later life, Lovecraft survived on a dwindling inheritance and never achieved much recognition. But in death, he has spawned a formidable cult who immerse themselves in a universe created from references to the occult, demonology, and various mythological archetypes. However overwrought his prose, Lovecraft’s work can be situated in a long literary tradition of influence, and a Lovecraft circle continued to expand his vision of scientific and supernatural horror after his death... Listening to Lovecraft is an excellent, as well as convenient, way to experience his work. His florid, often archaic, and melodramatic descriptions lend themselves perfectly to aural interpretations.

15 Responses to ‘When too much Cthulhu is barely enough’

Chaz mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2014
Nice retro feel listening to cthulhugoodness

Anthony mutters...

Posted October 24, 2014

Surely you mean Cthulubadness?

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Surtac reckons...

Posted October 24, 2014
Cthulu as audio is teh awesome.

Were you folks not aware of HPPodcraft.com? Do yourselves a favour.

Barnesm mumbles...

Posted October 24, 2014
Thanks for that Surtac I perfer my audiobooks to be ipodable.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2014
If you don't tell your children about C'thulhu, they will learn about C'thulhu on the street, or the locker room, or from other disreputable sources.

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Darth Greybeard puts forth...

Posted October 25, 2014
I'm going to make myself a target here maybe and say that Lovecraft's literary descendants and pastiche makers are actually a heck of a lot better than the man himself. I find Charles Stross' Laundry Files great fun while HP's stuff is as turgid and repetitive as it is morbid. No denying his influence though. Hellboy FTW.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted October 25, 2014
We all agree with you, more or less. But HP was the source, and there is something pure about his stuff, even if it is a bit clumsy.

I enjoy Robert E. Howard for the same reasons.

Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted October 25, 2014
I agree, including the guilty (in my case) enjoyment of Robert E Howard. When authors with more modern attitudes took over from Howard, the stories just weren't the same. Thoughtful and considerate Conan? Give me sorcerers, monsters, giant apes to cleave and princesses to rescue. And blood, lots of blood.

I'll just go and lie down now.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 25, 2014
When I was 13 years old Howard's works inspired me to write one of my first short stories entitled Larry the Barbarian. It was about a barbarian who got no respect from other barbarians because his name is Larry.

How I yearn for those simple days - when everything and everyone was simple.

Sudragon asserts...

Posted October 25, 2014
I like the Laundry Files stories... It's funny, funny, spy stuff, funny, then the blood hits the walls and you want to stop reading as part of your brain gibbers in the corner.

Arguments could be made about connections between IS(IL)(IS) and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted October 26, 2014
Has anyone seen GreyBeard & Cthulu in the same room at the same time?
Just saying.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted October 27, 2014
GreyBeard has been seen with Yog-Sothoth, but that doesn't mean GreyBeard isn't C'thulhu: they might have been exchanging contact information.

NBlob would have you know...

Posted October 27, 2014
I was going to ask how you told them apart, then I read more; One dim & bearded oblate sphere against a conglomeration of glowing spheres.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted October 27, 2014
Your familiarity with the Outer Gods impresses me.

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Mandy mumbles...

Posted October 27, 2014
There's an Australian Cthulhu anthology about to come out that sounds promising - called Cthulhu Down Under. Cthulhu in a caravan park, anyone?

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Just bought my first Greg Bear book. War Dogs

Posted October 3, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Fans of Bear's books have always seemed a little gimlet eyed to me. "The science is so hard," they whisper through clenched teeth. "Oh soooo hard."

Which puts a fellow off.

But I like the look of his latest, War Dogs, even though it's an idea I wanted to write myself at some point. A sci fi story about aliens arriving, giving us all their most advanced and SPLODEY kit, and then confessing they need us to fight some much nastier aliens for them.

I always imagined this as being a function of the Great Filter. Any race sufficiently advanced to harness the energies required for inter-solar travel stand a good chance of wiping themselves out with those energies. So the benevolent aliens are like really smart space wimps who build our star drives and powered armour for us but can't possibly do any of the fighting because they're all so effete and concerned with the survival of their species.

Still, now I don't have to write it. Bear beat me to the power glove punch. I'm hoping it wont be too depressing and that those space lizards get what's coming.

There's a Kirkus review here.

40 Responses to ‘Just bought my first Greg Bear book. War Dogs’

Blarkon reckons...

Posted October 3, 2014
Just remember that the Space Lizard Empire smashed the FKN filter - and then didn't go and FKN talk to the United Nations about "send us your best" - but instead went down to the pub at Bacchus Marsh and said "who wants to break some space sloth sculptures and shit with singularity weapons"

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 3, 2014
Oi you ya muppet,from orbit gecko! and biminghum, it says in the beat up: VERY FKN LOITTLE ACTON and death and zapping and splitting marshian up and shit!, I then ask: WTF why read the fkn if its got no action or have ya gone soft in the head too!

Bangar mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2014
H you need to post more often ... spelling requires practice ;)

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted October 3, 2014
I am interested in the current speculation that we have already passed 'the great filter' that is the reason proposed to explain Fermi's paradox, though Its a bit depressing to think we are the only ones out here. I do wonder however if that is not better than the alternative which sees us destroyed by a great filter ahead of us.

damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 4, 2014
Not sure I'd agree that we've "passed", unless "passed" means we didn't destroy ourselves immediately upon developing the capability to do so. I suspect "passed" will mean something like Musk's project, where some of us are beyond the reach of the guys with the doomsday weapons. And I don't think the "out of reach" bit is long-term stable...

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted October 3, 2014
Off topic, but good off topic.

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damian is gonna tell you...

Posted October 3, 2014
Haven't read any Greg Bear, though funnily enough was looking at starting into his stuff just a few days ago.

Greg Egan is very cool, hard sf albeit without the military theme

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted October 3, 2014
Greg Egan? OMFG!!! I meant to buy the new Greg Egan book, not the new Greg BEAR. Oh Nooooooo.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted October 3, 2014
Well Egan's that geeky WA astrophysics sf author guy. Has a personal website with java applets that provide visualisations of some of the maths concepts in his sf. I mentioned that I really enjoyed Schild's Ladder and think that others here would, too?

Blarkon would have you know...

Posted October 3, 2014
I like both Gregs. The Way books are a good read (an Asteroid turns up in earth orbit. When people go up to it, it turns out it *was* inhabited by people from the near future of a parallel reality - and they've managed to open a sort of dimensional "Way" that allows them to travel to parallel realities - so the reason it is abandoned is that they've all gone off a few light years down this rabbit hole). This one sounds a little similar to "The Forge Of God" where two groups of Aliens turn up, one who said "hey, we bring gifts" and the others who say "actually, those guys just fucked up your planet, come with us if you want to live"

Greg Egan is kinda like the Thomas Pynchon of SF.

damian mutters...

Posted October 3, 2014
Well I really liked The Crying of Lot 49. I think many people here would too. Never got very far with V though.

Blarkon mutters...

Posted October 3, 2014
I meant more along the lines of "not a lot of photographs and a bit literary"

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 3, 2014
I didn't think of Egan as literary, though he does write pretty well.

pi puts forth...

Posted October 4, 2014
I too, like both Greg's. But Egan is the adamantium hard-sf, not bear.

My fave duo-book of Bear is the Forge Of God/Anvil Of Stars books. If you can't get your 'splodey fix from that, you're not getting the breadth of the story.

Fave Egan book is Diaspora, followed by Permutation City. Real thinky stuff.

tqft mutters...

Posted October 4, 2014
One thing you may not know about Egan is he does a lot of interesting math (and visualises it as alluded to above).
not all of it surfaces on his blog which i don't get too enough.
However John Baez
https://plus.google.com/117663015413546257905/posts
, who has forgotten more maths and physics than I will know exists, surfaces a lot of Greg Egan stuff in context.
I have the first 2 Orthogonal Books on my pile of shame

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Spanner mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2014
Is this one on Audible yet? I had to wait for ages for Leviathan Wakes. I loved that. The science was hardish and the story was tops.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted October 3, 2014
There is an audio book, somewhere.

damian mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2014
My most recent reading has been the expanse series. Came up abruptly to the end of Cibola Burn just now, and reading non-fiction till I work out what next (actually reading Debt: the first 5000 years at the moment... has nice ideas and a few good bits of evidence, but not overall as solid as I hoped).

HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted October 3, 2014
srsly, I should do an audio book, they would love me doing the reading I reckon. We gunna set that up or fkn what!?

Blarkon mutters...

Posted October 3, 2014
I keep telling people to read Lexicon by Max Barry. Everyone who listens to me and actually reads it farking loves it.

Also - the new Peter F Hamilton book is now out.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted October 3, 2014
I think I read it, Lexicon by Max Barry on my Kindle. Yes I'm sure I read it.
Did I read it?
Maybe I bought it after reading a really a through review and it highlighted everything I read in the wikipedia entry on it. ARGGGG, if I start reading it again I am going to constantly be feeling Deja Vu the whole time Dammit.

Blarkon asserts...

Posted October 3, 2014
Are you a dog person or a cat person?

damian has opinions thus...

Posted October 3, 2014
Got Lexicon to start reading tonight. Will grab War Dogs too, I guess.

damian mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2014
Okay, Kindle edition War Dogs is embargoed till October 23, for my present arrangement at least. So Lexicon it is.

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sibeen mumbles...

Posted October 3, 2014
Another thumbs up for Lexicon. I really enjoyed that.

Anyone got any idea when Flinthart is going produce #2 of his Night Beast series?

TheWah mumbles...

Posted October 5, 2014
Lexicon was very good. Recommended to me by a Burger and I really enjoyed it

damian would have you know...

Posted October 6, 2014
Finished Lexicon last night and it is indeed very good. Who is this Max Barry person and why haven't we noticed him before?

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TheWah swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2014
If you like stories about humans fighting for wimpy aliens there is always John Ringo's A Hymn before Battle.

Warning - You will have to wade through right wing craziness and every description of a female character (2) in the book as having "high firm breasts".

.. now I think of it, don't read this book, it's just awful pro-military, hawks are better than doves, anti climate change silliness.

Why did I read the whole damn thing?!?!

Barnesm asserts...

Posted October 5, 2014
did you lose a bet?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted October 5, 2014
How odd. I seem to recall loving that book.

Bunyip swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 5, 2014
Are we talking about the same series that has the behemoth known as Bun Bun?

TheWah puts forth...

Posted October 6, 2014
There is a moment in the book when the veteran soldiers point out that if every available fighting man is brought back into service and rejuvenated then the whole economy of earth will collapse because only ex-soldiers make good corporate leaders... seriously...

It has power armour and anti-matter grenades and men having meaningful relationships with an AI called Michelle (but not gay relationships because its ok to have feelings for a computer program if you call it a girl but its weird and icky if two male soldiers love each other) and much splodey but the underlying philosophy is just awful.

damian mumbles...

Posted October 6, 2014
I'm with the Wah here - this stuff makes me lose patience with an author very quickly. Sure you make allowances for authors being creatures of their time and place, but that only really works where it works. You could make the argument here, after all everyone is an outcome of the water they swim in, but that would be saying something unpleasant and probably unfair about the time and place and some people really are just arses.

So with moderns you end up, perhaps, forced to the conclusion such an author is just a waste of skin. Nothing wrong with this conclusion, it doesn't really hurt anyone.

HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 6, 2014
still trying to get passed HFB

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Trashman would have you know...

Posted October 5, 2014
Alan Dean Foster did a trilogy called 'The Damned' on this very premise back in the early 90's. Not bad as I remember.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted October 6, 2014
Steve Stirling beat everyone to it.

http://smstirling.com/samples/ice-iron-and-gold-three-walls-32nd-campaign/

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Boscolamb ducks in to say...

Posted October 10, 2014
As much as I hate to admit it, I did read one of the sequels to A Hymn Before Dying. It was the Posleen War series #7, Watch on the Rhine. It featured the German government taking its geriatric WW2 veterans (including Waffen SS) and rejuvenating them with the alien technology to fight the Posleen. It's been several years since I read it, but I recall really enjoying the story.

The authors right-wing political views were not that prominent and didn't distract from the story. Ringo's book series on the zombie apocalypse (Black Tide Rising) has the authors personal political views more visible.

I think I like Ringo's writing partner, Tom Kratman better.

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Surtac reckons...

Posted October 10, 2014
Late to this thread, but so it goes ...

I read Bear earlier (Queen of Angels and so forth) but none of his more recent stuff. I recall being quite happy with it.

But I had to jump in here to comment on Ringo. For some reason I've mentally conflated Ringo with David Weber.

I read the first of Weber's Honor Harrington books some years ago (it was pre-Kindle days and it was the only physical book I had with me on a trans-Pacific flight.)

It was ok up to a point - the point where the major space battle took place in two dimensions only. It was just like that execrable Wing Commander movie that had the same motif - let's pretend to be ships of the line at Trafalgar. Honestly. I've never been back to the Harrington series since. But to be fair, Weer has written a YA book I enjoyed, A Beautiful Friendship, where the treecat's intelligence is discovered.

I will probably continue to avoid Ringo.

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Respond to 'Just bought my first Greg Bear book. War Dogs'

The Stand

Posted September 14, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

Stephen King's The Stand was the first book I ever bought with my own money. This end of the world opus remains one of my favorites, and one of the few books (along with Michael Herr's Despatches) that I've read multiple times. The collapse of civilization brought about by the superflu is superbly detailed at both the personal and global level. It could stand on its own (see what I did there?) as a novel, but of course da King takes it so much further by introducing Randall Flagg and his second Armageddon.

I dived back into it again this week, but with two changes. I'm listening to the audiobook, and the edition is the 1990 re-release that returned about 400 pages to the text. Since the original 'shorter' version was already over a thousand pages long, this edition is a monster.

Thomas and I are listening to the audio book in the car. We've been doing audiobooks this way for about a year or so, given the enormous amount of driving I have to do with him. Some of those cricket and rugby fields are a LONG way away. We'd just finished Justin Cronin's The Twelve (which got a bit strange in the last few chapters) and I was curious to see how he'd react to a book I had enjoyed so much at about his age.

The narration by Grover Gardner is top-notch, but one thing I hadn't thought of was how much of the story had dated. It's not just the absence of mobile phones and the Internet, for instance. There are characters whose whole lives are simply inexplicable in modern terms. Or if not inexplicable, at least anachronistic.

The rock musician, Larry Underwood, one of my favourite characters, appears in his opening chapters dealing with the blowback from overnight success, which naturally took seven or eight years to eventuate. There are a couple of pages, or in the audiobook a couple of minutes worth of storytelling, detailing Larry's struggles as a musician. Musicians have always struggled to make a living, of course, but it struck me listening to this section of the book how much things have changed because of digital distribution. The struggles are different now. I don't know that Thomas even noticed, but for me the discussion of 'pressing vinyl', cutting an album, Billboard top 40 charts, powerful record company executives etc marked this section of the book as an historical curiosity. So too with the description of New York, which was originally written well before the city's renaissance. The New York of The Stand is the dark, dangerous metropolis of the 1970s, not the zero tolerance wonderland of today.

Still, none of this detracts from my enjoyment of revisiting the story. In some ways, it adds to it. It's like time travel. And Thomas is loving it. I've always been a fan of King's work, but I forget sometimes just how good a writer he is. The last couple of years have seen the academic and literary establishment beginning to recognise and acknowledge his achievement. The publication of his alternative history of the Kennedy assassination, which I always think of as simply '63', seems to have marked the point at which the literary establishment threw up their hands and said, "Come 'ere, you big lug, lets just hug it out."

Some of the earlier chapters where the most important characters are introduced are a masterclass in writing about the banalities of everyday life without boring your readers. Even Thomas was taken aback at how interesting King made the breakup of Frannie Goldsmith and her hapless college boyfriend, the would-be poet Jess. There are no dark and fantastic elements to that chapter, just a really keen eye for the way that human beings treat each other.

The dark and fantastic elements are coming, of course. And I'm very much looking forward to reading them, or hearing them, over the next couple of months.

Dead tree:

And audio:

40 Responses to ‘The Stand’

Spanner mutters...

Posted September 14, 2014
Earlier in the year MrsS and I sat down to watch the stand. I'd forgotten how good an ensemble cast it had.

Unfortunately someone though it a good idea to convert the 4:3 to widescreen making everyone look fat. Who wants to see a distorted and fat Molly Ringwald? I found it that good a story that it didn't take long to forget about the distorted screen and get lost in the story.

Darth Greybeard mutters...

Posted September 14, 2014
It is better to adjust a single aspect ratio than to curse the wideness. (RTFM)

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insomniac mutters...

Posted September 14, 2014
Re The Twelve, I'm pretty sure the last few chapters relate to the first book in the trilogy, The Passage, tying up some bits and pieces, taking you back so there can be movement forward in the third book.

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pi has opinions thus...

Posted September 14, 2014
He has so many good books, and I've read the stand three times. I also thought the mini-series was pretty well realised, which was a bit of a surprise for me.

But where King really shines for me, is in his short stories. The Running Man, the Long Walk, The Raft, Survivor Type, The Mist, The Body, An Apt Pupil... the fact that I can rattle them off when I probably haven't read any of them for 15 years gives some indication of how they affected me.

Don't get me wrong, some of his big books I've truly loved (Salems Lot, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, Thinner, and of course, The Shining) but his short stories have actually given me nightmares (I'm lookin at YOU the Raft)

NBlob mutters...

Posted September 14, 2014
4.14
(Pi +1)

Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
I love the short stories too - the one that gave me nightmares was The Sun Dog, followed only by that awful cymbal-clapping monkey. Funny how he can make almost any household object into a menacing entity with murderous intent.

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Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted September 14, 2014
Yes JB.
Stephen King has a gift.
Last book I read, of his, was The Tommy Knockers in 1992.
It has stayed with me.
First one was Salem's Lot 1981(?)
Stayed with me too.
I haven't read The Stand but watched the mini series a few weeks ago.
I remember when it came out and watching it then.
"The rain in Maine falls mainly on the plane..."

BigWillieStyle has opinions thus...

Posted September 14, 2014
I've only ever read Cujo and The Shining of King's books. Read Cujo in one sitting, when I was about 15. Finished it at about 2.30 am, and spent the rest of the night sitting up in bed clutching my cricket bat, convinced an enormous, crazed dog was going to try and kill me at any time. Scared motherfucking shitless, I was.

Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted September 14, 2014
Hey BWS,
Just read the wikipedia version of Cujo.
The whole notion of right and wrong is worthy of sleepless nights.
Does the abstract exist?
Stephen King seems able to tap into this question and make clear that it does.

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
And Pet Cemetery.
Remember that?

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BigWillieStyle is gonna tell you...

Posted September 14, 2014
Hey JB, I was spring cleaning today - came across all my old Rolling Stone magazines. Flicking thru the July 1989 edition - "University of Queensland student John Birmingham" got a mention, for an article you wrote called "Kuta Kapers". If I was the type who took photos of stuff and posted them on websites, I'd probably do exactly that. But I'm not, so you'll just have to believe me.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted September 14, 2014
I remember it well. That story helped get that guy released.

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Nez puts forth...

Posted September 14, 2014
Have read pretty much everything King has put out bar The Dark Tower series, for some reason I've found that a struggle to get through and am still only half way through it.

The Stand remains his masterwork for me. It's still my go to novel if I want to revisit his work and I'd guess I've read it at least a dozen times. It always welcomes me back like an old friend and it almost feels like we're enjoying each other's company while I'm revisiting it.

I still think of Stu Redman as a mate and still have a crush on Frannie (which is kind of awkward for the three of us when you think about it). I also like to think that Tom Cullen was George RR Martin's inspiration for Hodor, taken to the extreme. "M-O-O-N, that spells moon."

That walk through the Lincoln Tunnel in pitch black scares the shit out of me every time though.

Dino not to be confused with ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
Nez,
Now I will have to read 'The Stand'.
I blame you.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
You identified with Larry.
I can still hear the bullies chanting about Ol' Lady Semple's cheque and the dancing cleansing luciferous beauty that so entrances Trashy.
Says something I think.

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Trowzers ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
I re-read The Stand a few weeks back to get in before the Incomparable podcast. I've read the book many times - it became a rule to read it whenever I was stuck home with a terrible flu. Reading when sick began as a sort of joke (and the podcast made me glad to hear I'm not the only who who does this), but it's the kind of book that holds out over multiple re-reads and it's nice to have the time to read big chunks of it.
However, this time I broke my rule and read it while I was feeling fine. Bad idea. Within in a week I fell ill with the worst flu I've had in about 10 years - I'm still clogged up two weeks later! So I think my copy has become some sort of incubator. A few more re-reads and who knows, maybe I'll spark off the events of the book.

I have too many thoughts about this book to sum up very well, but there are a few in my Goodreads review - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1022331806?book_show_action=false

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted September 14, 2014
OMG! There's an Incomparable ep???

Trowzers reckons...

Posted September 14, 2014
Yeah! With the timing, I thought that was why you were listening to it! They published it just a few weeks ago.

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Trowzers mutters...

Posted September 14, 2014
Here it is, for those who don't already subscribe - http://www.theincomparable.com/theincomparable/210/index.php

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 15, 2014
Listening now. It's great.

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BK swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 14, 2014
POTENTIAL SPOILERS

I feel the same about The Stand (although the first book I saved up for bought myself was IT).

However I remember that even when the revised edition came out the story seemed dated and out of time. King changed all the dates in the revision so that it was relatively contemporaneous but not all the references worked when set ten years later.

I love the revised edition for all the extra story (the catholic father of the big family still haunts me) but if you want to give someone the best experience, let them read the edited original. Tighter, set in the right time, and with a superior ending.

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted September 14, 2014
It took being stranded with my unit in the desert for five months during Operation Desert Storm to get me to pick up The Stand. After we had run through all of the other books and watched The Road Warrior for the 1000th time on our way overdue Blockbuster VHS.

I enjoyed the novel but I do not think I would have stuck with it if I hadn't been stranded in the desert.

Respects,
Murph
On the Outer Marches

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Barnesm asserts...

Posted September 15, 2014

For me The Stand whenever mentioned will call to mind the song "(Don't fear) The Reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult, the tune is planing through my head right now. this is becuase of the openning for the 1994 miniseries with Gary Sinise playing Stu Redman.

Spoilers

The opening sequence where you see the infected staff and the guard hightailing out of the facility like the deamons of hell were chasing him all the while B.O.C's ode to suicide playing through the scene has stuck with me , as strongly as King's imagination.

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Quokka mumbles...

Posted September 15, 2014
now I have Moar Cowbell earworm.

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Surtac is gonna tell you...

Posted September 15, 2014


Interesting. I'm sure I read some King as a relative youngster (Christine, Pet Cemetary and so on), but Librarything tells me the only volume I still have is The Dead Zone.

I haven't yet read The Stand, but at just under $5 from the beast of Bezos right now, it's now queued up on my kindle.

pi mumbles...

Posted September 15, 2014
How could I forget the dead zone?!?! One of his best.

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Rob has opinions thus...

Posted September 15, 2014

I love the Bachman books. Especially the long walk, creepy to the core. I might go and buy the Stand in my lunch break, nearly finished the Leftovers but still have Leviathan to re read. But what I really want to know from you JB is: what do you think of Apple foisting off U2 on unsuspecting itunes users? Seriously I feel like I've been assimilated by a mediocre christian youth group borg style. Resistance was futile , but I was prepared. I deleted it, but itunes said I could only hide it. It asked me if I wanted to hide U2, no I wanted it deleted lest it infect my entire network. Alas Itunes said no.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted September 15, 2014
I think it was a blunder. It would have been more expensive but infinitely more valuable to just give away a free album of everyone's choice.

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damian reckons...

Posted September 15, 2014
I honestly can't remember whether I encountered any of Stephen King in book form before seeing the movie or mini-series. I did marathon-watch The Stand around the time it came out on VHS along with my then-girlfriend who was a fan but never did get around to reading it. Definitely read Misery though.

Along similar lines, I'm pretty sure I remember reading The Exorcist as a teenager, though just the trailers for the movie freaked the heck out of me when I was kid. I think I avoided King for the same reason and just didn't see the point in horror.

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Rob has opinions thus...

Posted September 15, 2014

I would have appreciated that definately. So much to buy... google might do that Their range is really good. I could go bankrupt with their catalog and their wonderful prompts that show me google really do know what I like.

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Chaz would have you know...

Posted September 15, 2014

Loved 'The Stand' and like Barnes will always associate BOC with it. Although in hindsight most BOC tracks are reminiscent of dark goings on in New England and elsewhere.

But 'salems lot' stands out as being my favourite King novel read it at 15 before my o levels and it scared me to the bone.

Time to revisit me thinks

pi mutters...

Posted September 15, 2014
Yeah... as I put in my faves up the top, Salems Lot was the first long-form book in my list. Brilliant book.

Another one that I absolutely loved... Firestarter.

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted September 15, 2014
And to prove my sincerity have just bought in on kindle, just don't tell the wife....

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted September 15, 2014
Read that 'The Stand' was Stephen King's attempt at an American 'Lord of the Rings'.
I haven't read the stand but read LOTR in 1976.
I will read The Stand but at this point in time I believe it is an extension of 'Catch-22'.
Milo Minderbinder is Sheldon.
Joe Heller wrote about him too.
Can't mention his Surname.
Sheldon from Las Vegas etc...

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Thrud the barbarian has opinions thus...

Posted September 15, 2014

Always loved the Stand because it wasn't one of King's stories that ended like a bit of a wet squib. IT drove me crazy- built to this utterly amazing ending that... just... sorta farted and died. The Stand, tho'- I love that he just got in there and, yep- there IS a God, and he moves in mysterious ways. VERY quantum physics- it's the lads' act of observation of the events in Vegas that gives meaning to the whole apocalypse- without the observation, there would be no victory.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted September 16, 2014
You and me, Thruddy. We seem to be the only ones who dug that finale.

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted September 16, 2014
a bit too Deus Ex Hand for my liking.

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S.M. Stirling ducks in to say...

Posted September 20, 2014
I liked THE STAND, but if you can read the version with 400 pages put back into the 1200 page first edition, and you can't really tell the difference... then the 400 pages shouldn't be there.

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Respond to 'The Stand'

Book launch. Talking Smack. Now with Extract.

Posted August 22, 2014 into Books by John Birmingham

UPDATED. See entry below for extract.

Took a few hours off deadline last night to launch Andrew McMillen's 'Talking Smack', a series of profile/interviews with musicians forcussed largely, but not entirely on drug use.

A fascinating book, expertly done. (It even has it's own little website here. Super Pro!) Andrew's one of the best freelancers working the magazine trade at the moment. The Mick Harvey (Bad Seeds, Birthday Party) chapter below is one of the highlights. It details with equisite discomfort just how much damage a user can do to those around them who aren't using.

This is longish chat, 30+ mins, probably best appreciated of an evening with a few drinks in you.

14 Responses to ‘Book launch. Talking Smack. Now with Extract.’

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted August 22, 2014
Did the lighting guy have any trouble with the brightness levels in the film? I was getting a lot of head flare while I watched.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted August 22, 2014
There was a lighting guy?

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Therbs asserts...

Posted August 22, 2014
Id buy it but it has Gotye listed on the front cover and the only smack he deserves is a close fisted one in the face.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted August 22, 2014
This affirms and validates my decision to forgo and not pursue rock music stardom.

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted August 22, 2014
not enough drugs in it for you?

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Halwes has opinions thus...

Posted August 22, 2014

I just got off a long plane trip through many domestic airports in Aus including Cairns and Brissie. The first thing that struck me is what a police state we've become with feds and dogs everywhere but secondly, when I browsed the airport bookshops, there were no Queensland authors represented. I asked at every bookshop for copies of your books and Xavier Herbert and Frank Hardy and there was nothing except blank stares. Sure I berated them on the lack of aussie content but surely there should be a copy of Felafel there somewhere at least ( it's a scream at any age) especially in the Qld shops. Leviathan would also be good reading for a tourist that wanted to learn something of the country. I also expected your sci fi novels to be represented so I could give them a try but not a chance.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 22, 2014
Yeah, airports don't stock a lot of backlist these days.

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w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted August 22, 2014
Nice interview. Your son is using the pen name, Andrew McMillen. :)


Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted August 22, 2014
Mini me?

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NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 22, 2014
I have nothing to add, it is a topic with which I am entirely unfamiliar.

Then a monkey flew out of my ass.

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Halwes reckons...

Posted August 22, 2014

Remember when everyone thought hammer was the worst drug ever. I always found opium fairly enjoyable, until you stopped for a few days. Looking at the destructive qualities of methamphetamines and Kronic etc I think that the war on drugs might have been a waste of time. What has happened is that we have such draconian prohibition now on grass and other "mainstream drugs" that our current generation, which is pretty intelligent as a collective, have decided to make their own drugs. From what I've seen of it this is an unfolding disaster.

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pi ducks in to say...

Posted August 22, 2014
Drugs are like all things... good for some, bad for others. Nothing is ever good if done to excess for any length of time. Great story in the thread below.

The big issue always, with any destructive behaviour, is how do you get out of it. When all of your friends are part of the same destructive pattern, it generally takes disaster to shake people out of it. For me, I've partaken plenty of things, but I've always had a career, and other things that suck out my time, and for enjoyable reasons (key point... it's a math thing). When you don't have those pursuits, when you are with the same people, day-in, day-out, the biggest challenge to drug use is boredom.

'tis always been thus. People start doing these things because they're fun. They don't stop, because there's nothing they've found that's more fun. When they do, the problem goes away. If they don't, it leads to a lot of unhappiness.

'cept for the people that should never ever do drugs. For them, it's just sad.

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Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 25, 2014

I've been arguing with one of my friends on FB lately. They keep posting all this horrible liberal crap about drug users and drug use. The main theme seems to that drug users are victims, with special needs and they all have been dealing with sad issues in their lives, that need blunting by drugs. I always thought that drugs are popular because they are fun and everyone loves a good time. You could drink 3 litres of wine, or shoot heroin, or smoke a cigarette. All varying degrees of fun.

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Respond to 'Book launch. Talking Smack. Now with Extract.'