“In 1914 a large number of British women doctors and nurses formed their own medical units for war service; but, as women, they were rejected by their own authorities so they volunteered for service with Allied armies, and nowhere were their courage and fortitude put to the test more savagely than in Serbia where bitter campaigns raged between 1914 and 1918 in circumstances the equal of those faced by Florence Nightingale in the Crimea.” Continue reading “The Quality of Mercy: Women at War, Serbia 1915-1918 – Monica Krippner (Review)”
I used to struggle with guilt about books and television I didn’t like. Once I had made it past the first chapter, or past the first three episodes, I would feel like I really had to continue. I made THREE attempts to finish JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and was defeated each time by the endless descriptions of military movements. Pace Alan Bennett, it was as if a hand had come out from the page, and beaten me into a coma.
Friends, readers, fellow subscribers, break free from your chains! Stop drearily attempting to finish that show you hate just because George-from-work keeps talking about it. Today, I plan to share a few of the things I have unapologetically stopped watching. No guilt. No shame. No wasted time. Lots of spoilers in here, though. Continue reading “An Incomplete List of Unfinished Series”
Games Workshop has announced a new line of children’s books set in the Warhammer universe. The books will be set in both the Warhammer 40K and Age of Sigmar settings, and will feature protagonists in their early teens. It’s an unusual and interesting move by the company. Continue reading “Warhammer Adventures”
News from the world of digital analysis of literature, where a study in the Journal of Cultural Analytics has discovered that women are… missing. Absent. Vanished. Fallen off the bottom of the page.
Back in the good old 1850s, there were plenty of authors who were women. It was the era of the lending library, magazine serials and authors reading out chapters to packed concert halls. But over the next 100 years, the number of women successfully publishing fiction almost halved.
The question is, where did all the women go? Continue reading “The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Women”
“A hush of reverence for that vast dead
Who gave us beauty for a crust of bread.”
I came across this quotation, mis-attributed, in an essay, and found it rather compelling. Tracking down the source, however, proved to be surprisingly difficult. The attribution didn’t help, of course, sending me looking for a poet who didn’t exist, but mostly the problem was that this poem, and its poet, are both rather obscure. Continue reading “Glory to Them – Anderson M. Scruggs”
I’ve read a lot of books, and watched a lot of films, about monsters. In so far as “monster attacks group of people” is a genre, it’s one of my preferred genres. I have thrilled to tales of liopleurodons, Humboldt squid, sabre-tooth tigers and titanoboas. I have watched, due to the prominence of sharks as the antagonist, countless films with a two word title in which the second word is “shark” (or, to be fair, “sharks”). The first word of the title allows more variation, including “snow“, “swamp“, “Jurassic“, and “raging“. I’ve even had the privilege of enjoying a whole bunch of works which just jammed two words together to create the title, like Sharknado, Sharktopus, and Piranhaconda.
I mention these works to establish that I know what I’m talking about here, rather than as recommendations. I’m not recommending them because, in all this time of monster books and films, a common element has come clear: most of these works are absolutely terrible. Sturgeon’s Revelation states that 90% of everything is awful, but I believe monster stories to be a special case; I think the percentage for this specific genre might be closer to 98%.
For some reason, authors seem to feel that they can get away with more poorly-written books than in other genres. This might be attributable to the fact that a higher proportion of monster books seem to be self-published than in other genres, so there’s no one to enforce editing and proofreading. I don’t think that’s entirely it, as there are many traditionally published monster books that are terrible, and several well-designed self-published ones. In general, it just seems that monster books are where authors dump all their plot holes and inconsistent characterisation – it’s not a genre that is taken that seriously, or regarded very highly.
Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. I like monster stories enough that despite (and occasionally because of) their terribleness, I still enjoy them. I will struggle through countless clumsy coincidences and grammatical errors to read about a deranged businessman being devoured by ptero-wasps. However, I’m aware that not everyone is as forgiving of, or as engaged in, the genre as I am.
I thought I’d use this post, after trashing the genre as a whole, to recommend an author who not only writes monsters books, but does so well. One of the few authors who manages to write a coherent plot in coherent English that’s also about a shark killing people.
Steve Alten’s “Meg” series is one of the stand-outs of the monster genre. The books are based around the idea that Carcharodon Megalodon, an ancestor of today’s great white shark, survived into the modern era; when one of these antediluvian murder machines comes into contact with humans, it’s up to a tortured marine biologist to stop the carnage. Continue reading “Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series”
Adrian Tchaikovsky is an underrated author. He’s not unsuccessful – his books appear in mainstream stores, and he gets favourable reviews. Right now, he’s in the running for a Clarke Award. But he doesn’t get the same recognition as some fantasy/sci-fi authors; he’s not often mentioned in the same breath as Rothfuss or Martin or Sanderson. And that’s a shame, because I think he’s at least as good as them. Continue reading “Three Reasons to Read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Shadows of the Apt””