The Early Days of a Better Nation

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Intellects vast and cool

Crooked Timber, a group blog by academics mainly (I think) in the humanities and social sciences, is having a book event on the work of Charles Stross. I'm well impressed that they've got Paul Krugman to write about the economics of the Merchant Princes series. My own contribution is about Charlie's novel Saturn's Children, and goes some way to lower the tone and keep SF in the gutter where it belongs.
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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Darwin's Island, Darwin's Cause

An enthusiastic review in The Sunday Times of two new books on Darwin, one by geneticist Steve Jones and one by Darwin biographers Desmond and Moore:
Besides disclosing the beautiful ingenuities of Darwin's thought, Jones updates Darwin's science. With dazzling versatility he traverses the field of modern genetics to show how evolutionary theory has become fact, and how DNA evidence, together with the fossil record, has allowed Darwin's speculations about past biological events to be confirmed, extended and given approximate dates.[...] As Jones accumulates his evidence, the vision of the relatedness of all life becomes more and more breathtaking. I have never read a book that made me gasp with amazement so often.

[...] Darwin's Sacred Cause is prodigiously researched and propelled by its own excitements, though they are political as much as scientific. Their argument is that Darwin was driven not simply by a zeal for scientific knowledge but by a moral passion. His motive was hatred of black slavery and the cruelties it sanctioned. [...] Darwin's Sacred Cause does not question Darwin's scientific integrity, but illustrates his hatred of cruelty. In that respect it examines a particular aspect of the sympathy with other organisms - human, animal and plant - that Jones's book explores with such bravura.
As the man himself said, there is grandeur in this view of life.
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Monday, January 26, 2009

A small black flag, waving

The author of the fine but all-too-aptly-titled blog Liberty Alone appeals to any fellow left-libertarians in the UK:
Any left libertarians (including geolibertarians, agorists, market anarchists, individualist anarchists, volunatrists, voluntary socialists, liberal anarchists, mutualists, dialectical libertarians and others) get in touch please…
So comrades, go rally. I'm not quite sure what a 'volunatrist' is, but I like the sound of it.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Publicity material

I'm on BBC1's Sunday morning discussion programme The Big Questions tomorrow (Sunday 24 January) at 10.00 a.m. I don't mind admitting I'm a little nervous, not having been on anything like this before ... then again, I may be overestimating the size of a Sunday morning audience.

In the less demanding medium of cold print, there's an interview with me by long-time SF editor, fan, writer, panelist and gent Andrew J. Wilson in the current issue of ONE magazine, published in Edinburgh and available (it says here) from Stockholm to Selangor, via Prague.

(Two of the three pictures at the top, by the way, are photographic evidence of me glorifying terrorism at Edinburgh radical bookshop Word Power a couple of years ago. Mind you, this glorification included my saying: 'If you're thinking of becoming a terrorist, don't. If you are a terrorist, betray your organization's plans to the police as soon as possible.' But still.)

Very gratifyingly, The Night Sessions has been listed in the SF and fantasy section of the Guardian's list of 1000 novels everyone must read. It has also been shortlisted in the Best Novel category for this year's BSFA Award.

Colour me chuffed.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Writing in the genes

Pippa Goldschmidt, my fellow writer in residence at the Genomics Forum, has launched a short story competition. Look at anything human, under the aspect of what we've learned from our understanding of the genome and genetics - that's a wide blank page to write on.

And, for those of you with selfish genes, the prize money is very attractive indeed ...
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Terrestrial-Americans hail 43rd human President

Millions of humans, the crowd visible from space,

Credit: Geo-Eye (Via).

gathered for the inauguration of President Barack Hussein Obama. For many, a high point of his speech was the pledge to 'roll back the spectre of a warming planet.'

For others, this part of his message was less welcome.

'Divisive talk about "threats to our planet" just makes me shiver,' said one visitor.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Scottish Scam

The best small country in the world has now caught up with Nigeria. I take the liberty of reproducing an email I've just received from an address in the Czech Republic.


I am Mr. Gordon Weave (Auditing & Accounting dept) CLYDESDALE BANK GLASGOW
SCOTLAND. During my auditing duty in our bank, I discovered a deceased Dormant
euro account datas with a figure Balance amount of Eleven Million Euros (11
million euros) belonging to a foreigner named

[usual shite deleted]

Be rest assured that this business is 100% legal and have risk-free on both
sides and every arrangement to transfer this money to the account you are going
to provide have been concluded provided we maintain the confidentiality and
secrecy involved.

l am looking forward to your soonest reply
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

In the interests of balance ...

Both sides of the Gaza story, shown here. (Via).
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Edinburgh Palestine demo, yesterday

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