June 25th, 2011

Questions from Juggzy, not answered in order

4. Mieville, Reynolds and Stephenson: Collect, Borrow from the Library and Send to Oxfam?

Mievelle - Send To Oxfam
Reynolds - Borrow from the library
Stephenson - Collect

Actually I have read very little Reynolds, Galaxy spanning post-human empires are not really my thing. When thinking about this question I misremembered you had said Ian McDonald and was going to say 'Borrow from the library' because I suspect I only finished Brasyl because I was ill (indeed, from the library), and I was rather irked by the bolt-on [REDACTED]. There is something about his British SF writer does cyberpunk in exotic locations faintly distasteful on some level.

Mieville. First of all, have you read this? http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/sciencefiction/2011/05/whatif.html (you have to read to the end, of course). Mieville is someone that I somehow like more than I want to, because early in my exposure to him I saw him on the culture show doing the whole 'my English teacher said I wasn't reading proper literature because SF isn't proper literature' schtick. What decade is this? Did you not get the memo?
In many ways I thought his best thing was the book of short stories. The City And The City And The Badger, ironically, I got out of the library and probably would have reread by now if I had bought it. There, Mr Cinema Industry, I'd like to see you try to make a film of that one. Hah!
I still think he should be given free rein over Eastenders with power to bring in aliens, squid, alien squid, ghosts, trap streets, whatever as he thinks fit.

Stephenson. I think I have reread everything, some a number of times except The Big U, The Diamond Age (nice idea but no, Turing completeness is not worth half a novel) and the historical ones, not that I read the last two. Cobweb, the second of the ones written with his uncle is, I think, under-rated and his prejudices are rather more nuanced than in Interface and Cryptonomicon. I still don't understand why he didn't get some pals to read Anathem and then fix all the flaws with the way the Concent works. That wouldn't fix the fundamental 'can you really separate science from engineering like that' question but would have improved the experience of reading it. Bit worried about REAMDE, money in on-line games has been done by Charlie and Walter Jon Williams already, it seems a bit 2005. Though we shall see what he does with it.
I must have mentioned that I bought Zodiac before any of the SF came out, it was in some random local non-big city bookshop, it was bizarrely shelved with S.F. despite not being. Did they somehow know, or was it just because of the name. The next novel being S.F. surprised me not at all, like discovering Tom Robinson was bi. These things are implicit in the deep structure of the universe.

Television Centre

I have probably told many of you this story before, but my one visit to TV Centre was to sing on some sort of summer stand in for Songs Of Praise. It was some sort of 'celebrities choose their favourite hymns' show. The celebrity in question was Janet Brown, Margaret Thatcher impersonator. She had asked for 'a good ordinary boys school choir rather than a choir school choir'. Which was us. There was some strike going on, so those members of the junior over-achievers who had been into London for their beyond-the-level-available-in-Amersham-College-On-Saturday mornings had to smuggle their instruments in, for fear that it might be thought they were going to play them, which they weren't.
I believe that Wogan was being rehearsed prior to his live Saturday evening show, and some people saw him.
Did we get fed? Can't remember - I went to Broadcasting House twice, once with the late father of Mr Cloudhigh (I think we went to see 2001 at the cinema then went into Broadcasting House for lunch), and once with a neighbour (they were our 'party line' when we first moved to Amersham) to see the recording of a schools' programme he was producing, so I may have conflated the canteen at Broadcasting House with the one at Television Centre.

But clearly, even if the BBC weren't moving to Salford - and of all the things to move what sense does it make moving Five Live (if you are going to do anything for Five Live I would vote for getting rid of the news aspect completely and leaving it totally to sport - sport fulfills an important social function which is to give men something to talk about in pubs, which is more use than the hysterical, debased, nonsense that passes for news on Five Live on the whole) - the building is obviously going to be completely impractical for today's technology. It definitely has a look of the utterly unmodifiable.

Though I am with Charlie Brooker here - don't vajazzle our memories, better to flatten it.

I do feel though that there is a general sense in which the age of 'independents' (and I think you have all been bored by my views on them by now) and 'casuals' that a certain serendipity has been lost. Interesting things happen when interesting people can bump into each other. Maybe it is another element of Oldthinkers Unbellyfeel Ingsoc, and Twitter feeds etc. are a substitute but I kind of doubt it. What is wrong with the weekly meeting where anyone can turn up and brainstorm Weekending sketches? Why did it go? Perhaps some corner of Facebook is a substitute but does the current output suggest it is?

(as far as architecture-as-architecture goes, I not so sure about the 'keep a tiny bit of buildings and flatten the rest' theory in general. Both the Radcliffe Infirmary and Old Gaol (always spelled that way) have had more demolished than I was expecting, and I an not entirely convinced keeping the rest was particularly worth it in either case. Suspect that we save the wrong sorts of buildings in wrong proportions and should be concentrating on building better new ones).