“Fidget-arse”

There’s nothing like being made redundant to make you even busier than you were before, especially if you’re the sort of person who just can’t sit still and simply has to be doing something. I have been very busy and ironically, for someone who is supposed to be maintaining a blog, I have been writing. If you were wondering, the title of this post isn’t from some porn-flick, it’s what my mum used to say whenever one of her kids couldn’t sit still. It served as a sort of ‘amber-alert’ before we got told to sit still and behave. So there you go. You learn something every day. A nuisance child in Scotland is called a ‘fidget-arse’ (note: not ‘ass’, that’s a donkey, despite the protests of the spell-checker).

It’s always interesting to compare notes on favourite bookshops. For some people it’s only ever about the range and knowledge of the friendly staff but for others, it’s about architecture and history or that more indefinable quality, ‘atmosphere’. Sean Dodson highlights 10 great bookshops from around the world including one of my all-time favourites, Borders in Glasgow. Link

A book blog by Sian Pattenden asks why it is that a quarter of adults haven’t read a book for a year. I think that figure is much higher. I remember the statistic quoted in ‘The Bookseller’ magazine that fewer than 1% of adults in Britain buy books regularly. It’s interesting that her article is headed by a photograph of a book table in a Waterstones, a mega-corp that through unimaginative Head Office nationwide promotions has managed to push book choice into a selection of the same dull authors with the launch of each ‘Summer Reading’ 3 for 2 promotion and the imposition of the dreaded ‘plan-o-gram’ on each branch. Sian also ponders which books may tempt people back into the reading habit. Link

Finally, on a topic very close to my heart, Sam Jordison asks why it is that critics still sneer at sci-fi. I’m willing to bet that many of the more well-known critics have attempted to be writers/ film-makers themselves, some of them when younger may even have tried to write (whisper it, ‘Literature’) and the simple truth is, they failed. My point is that until you have tried writing science-fiction, you simply cannot appreciate how extra-ordinarily difficult it is. Those that can write science-fiction well – and there are, I will admit, few examples – are those writers whom we return to repeatedly. These writers are also those who have proven to be rich, fertile (profitable) material for Hollywood. When writing the sort of contemporary narrative that features regularly in shortlists for assorted prizes, we never stop to remember that the writer/ film-maker has not had to create a whole new world of experience that must nonetheless remain true to us, the reader-viewer. A creator of science-fiction must abide by the same rules that govern other forms of narrative story-telling and yet offer something more because what this genre is trying to do (most often) is ask those big questions that the greatest minds in history have struggled with and never really resolved: what makes us, us? I’m pretty sure that what also annoys critics of science-fiction is the mind-bending – and fun – way in which science -fiction readily appropriates from the conventions of other genres: ‘Alien’ is essentially a horror movie, ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is a soap opera, ‘Firefly’ (TV)/ ‘Serenity’ (film) is a Western, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is a family drama-doc, while ‘Gattaca’ steals from one of the greatest romantic movies of all time, ‘Casablanca’. More annoying yet, these science-fictions not only steal from but arguably redefine the genre they stole from.Link

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