Peter Wilkinson's Journal

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31st December 2014

8:17pm: A fallback message arrangement
Since I'm intentionally not publishing an email address here at the moment and my current email setup doesn't seem to be 100% reliable for incoming mail, I'm creating this entry for people who don't have an email address for me or do have one but suspect that emails aren't getting through.

Comments to this entry will all be screened so that any private messages hopefully won't get released to the rest of the universe.

22nd May 2014

1:33am: Some thoughts on today's elections
European and local elections coming up - so one of my relatively rare politics and voting-related posts.

First, a declaration of my position: I'm a Labour Party member (even if an inactive one these days) and have always voted Labour. I will certainly be voting Labour in the European Parliament election next Thursday, and almost certainly for all three of my local Labour council candidates. So read my remarks bearing this in mind.

European elections...Collapse )in London...Collapse )and the rest of BritainCollapse )

And local elections in my areaCollapse )

So, my final plea - if you haven't voted by post already, get out and vote in the European elections today, and the local ones if you have them this year. And, in the Euros, please vote for a party that seems to have at least a plausible chance of winning at least one seat in your area - though preferably not for UKIP. For the locals, I probably don't know your area well enough to advise.

25th December 2013

12:32am: Best wishes to all...
as you celebrate/inveigh against/ignore as best you can (or other alternative - delete as applicable) the purported anniversary of the birth of someone who, on the (historically likely but far from certain) assumption that they even existed, was probably born at a quite different time of year (the claims for this time of year appear quite late historically and the date coincides with an apparently totally unconnected pre-existing festival);

And as you live (hopefully) through the forthcoming annual period which is supposedly denominated by the number of annual periods from that birth until now - except that the likeliest information we have about the actual date of the birth suggests that it took place several years before the date from which we are currently counting.

29th August 2013

11:50pm: Watching LoneStarCon 3 from a distance
As has become something of a tradition in most recent years, I've set up a temporary public friends group of LJers attending LoneStarCon 3.

While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added a few others who look likely to be posting from or about LoneStarCon 3 - though I may be dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.

If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about LoneStarCon 3, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.

14th April 2013

2:08am: ESFS Awards
If I am interpreting this entry in eurocon correctly (and after cross-referencing with this not quite complete list of nominations on Europa SF), this year's ESFS Award winners, announced at Eurocon in Kiev this weekend, are as follows:

European Grandmaster
Terry Pratchett (UK)
Iain Banks (UK)

Hall of Fame

Author: Andrei Valentinov (Ukraine)

Artist: Nikolai Redka (Ukraine)

Translator: Patrice and Viktoriya Lajoie (France)

Promoter: Istvan Burger (Hungary)

Publisher: Shiko (Ukraine)

Magazine: SFX (UK)


Spirit of Dedication

Performance: "Vash Vikhod"(?) (Your Move), "Raido" theatre (Ukraine)

Website: scifiportal.eu (Romania)

Illustrator: Katerina Bachilo (Russia)

Fanzine: Fandango (Ukraine)

Encouragement Awards

Stefan Cernohuby (Austria)
Ioana Visan (Romania)
Aleksandra Davydova (Russia)
Leonid Kaganov (Russia)
Livia Hlavackova (Slovakia)
Boris Georgiev (Georgia)
Julia Novakova (Czech Republic)
Oleg Silin (Ukraine)
Martin Vavpotic (Slovenia)
Anton Lik (Belarus)

Honorary Awards

Harry Harrison (in memoriam)
Boris Strugatsky (in memoriam)

31st March 2013

7:25pm: BSFA Award results
Best Novel

Winner: Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett (Corvus)

Empty Space: a Haunting by M. John Harrison (Gollancz)

Intrusion by Ken Macleod (Orbit)

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit)

Best Short Story

Winner: “Adrift on the Sea of Rains” by Ian Sales (Whippleshield Books)

“Immersion” by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld #69)

“The Flight of the Ravens” by Chris Butler (Immersion Press)

“Song of the body Cartographer” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Phillipines Genre Stories)

“Limited Edition” by Tim Maughan (1.3, Arc Magazine)

“Three Moments of an Explosion” by China Mieville (Rejectamentalist Manifesto)

Best Artwork

Winner: Blacksheep for the cover of Adam Roberts’s Jack Glass (Gollancz)

Ben Baldwin for the cover of Dark Currents (Newcon Press)

Dominic Harman for the cover of Eric Brown’s Helix Wars (Rebellion)

Joey Hi-Fi for the cover of Simon Morden’s Thy Kingdom Come (Jurassic London)

Si Scott for the cover artwork for Chris Beckett’s Dark Eden (Corvus)

Best Non-Fiction

Winner: The World SF Blog, Chief Editor Lavie Tidhar

“The Complexity of the Humble Space Suit” by Karen Burnham (Rocket Science, Mutation Press)

“The Widening Gyre” by Paul Kincaid (Los Angeles Review of Books)

The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)

The Shortlist Project by Maureen Kincaid Speller

22nd December 2012

11:53pm: Happy New Baktun
... and also any dates recurring on rather shorter and more familiar time-cycles that you choose to celebrate in the next week or so.

29th August 2012

6:45pm: Watching Chicon 7 from a distance
As has been the case in most recent years, I've set up a temporary public friends group of LJers attending Chicon 7.

While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added others who look likely to be posting from or about Chicon 7 - though probably dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.

If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about Chicon 7, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.

19th August 2012

11:55pm: British rowing's forgotten silver medallist
Sometime fifty years ago this summer (quite likely fifty years ago sometime last week), a young British woman of 19 or 20 with some rather odd luggage stood arguing with American border guards at Checkpoint Charlie. Yes, she knew what she was doing, she was expected in East Berlin, she had a formal invitation. After several hours of arguing, they let her (and her luggage) through. The people waiting for her on the other side of the border had given up on her coming and gone. She had to take a taxi to where she was going, and got there with only an hour to spare before her first race.

The young woman's name was Penny Chuter and, by all available accounts, she was the best British woman rower of her generation. On 19 August 1962, she won the silver medal in single sculls at the Women's European Rowing Championships, which were being held that year at Grünau, in the suburbs of East Berlin. The "odd luggage" was her sculls, though she borrowed an East German boat. Read more...Collapse )
And by now, very few seem aware that she was perhaps the most talented British rower in an admittedly weak period for British rowing.

5th May 2012

12:04am: Warning! Severe spatio-temporal anomalies in north London
Earlier today, I wondered whether a mysterious pattern of delays in the election count for London Mayor might indicate the existence of a black hole somewhere near Alexandra Palace. despotliz kindly pointed me, via the Guardian liveblog, to a rather more mundane explanation involvoing a power cut. However...

Two ballot boxes full of votes from Brent and Harrow constituency seem to have slipped into a wormhole yesterday evening and have only recently rematerialised in normal space-time, apparently somewhere in the region of Alexandra Palace. Moreover, this has apparently meant that, while the ballot papers were designed for scanning into an electronic counting system, they are now having to be counted by hand.

Actually, this brings back memories. Thirty years ago, plus or minus a couple of days, I went to my first "proper" (i.e. not student union) election count - I was standing as a Labour candidate for the local council. It wasn't exactly a good time to be a Labour candidate - for several months, the Social Democratic/Liberal Alliance had been attracting both Labour and Tory voters, except that the Falklands War was now at its height and the Tory voters had mostly moved back to Thatcher. In every local ward except one, the Tories took all the council seats, the Alliance candidates came next, leaving the Labour candidates trailing in last place. The one exception was that, in the one local ward where we already had a councillor (two over from where I was standing), we held onto that seat and gained another.

Except that in fact we hadn't. The next morning, someone realised that the voting figures for that ward did not properly add up, a search was done of the room where the count had taken place, and there were two still sealed ballot boxes under a table. The count was hurriedly restarted - this time resulting in three Tory councillors and exactly the same order of candidates as in all the other wards, except that I think that the top Labour candidate got a few more votes than the bottom Alliance one.

And this all took place just a few miles west of Alexandra Palace, and just a few miles east of Brent and Harrow. Could it have been the same wormhole?

4th May 2012

1:37pm: Is there a black hole near Alexandra Palace?
Having (as always) voted a straight Labour ticket yesterday in the London elections yesterday, I'm keeping more than half an eye on the counts for Mayor and Assembly - and I've noticed something.

For the Assembly election that takes place alongside the Mayoral one, London is divided into fourteen constituencies, and the counting of ballot papers for both Mayor and Assembly for each constituency is taking place at one of three different sites - Excel for five constituencies covering east and south-east London, Olympia for five constituencies covering west and south-west London, and Alexandra Palace for the remaining four, covering north London. The official LondonElects website is providing a more-or-less live feed of the count. However, four out of the fourteen constituencies seem to be counting distinctly more slowly than the rest (the figures for this are below the bar chart showing the current interim result) - and the four constituencies concerned are the ones being counted at Alexandra Palace.

Something near Alexandra Palace is clearly causing a temporal distortion - and, if one discounts sheer human inefficiency as a possible explanation, a nearby black hole looks like one of the more plausible alternatives. Memory tells me that this isn't the first time that election counts for London-wide elections at Alexandra Palace have been suspiciously slow compared with those elsewhere, so the black hole may have been there a while - though, if so, I can't explain why it doesn't seem to manifest between elections.

Though, to be honest, I'm not sure that I would discount human inefficiency - the organisation of at least one previous Alexandra Palace count, at which I was present, was undertaken by Barnet council staff (despite Alexandra Palace being in Haringey - I think it was because Barnet is the largest borough within the four constituencies), and over thirty years, I don't think I have ever known the level of organisation of a Barnet election count ever get above "satisfactory" (and it's often been below).

On the election itself, Boris Johnson is currently ahead of Ken Livingstone and looks almost certain to win (boo), but in my local constituency, Barnet and Camden, the Labour candidate looks like winning the seat from its long-standing incumbent and somewhat notorious Tory, Brian Coleman - even though within Barnet and Camden, Johnson is leading Livingstone by some distance. It looks as if I have been rather atypical in voting a straight party ticket.

31st March 2012

11:56pm: Awards shortlisting season...
You know that it's the Awards shortlisting season when the shouting starts - most spectacularly this year with Christopher Priest's elegantly-written invective on the Clarke Awards shortlist.

To start on a tangent - I have nominated four novels for the Hugos this year. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (last year's Clarke winner, but eligible for the Hugos this year because of delayed American publication). The Islanders by a certain Christopher Priest. Embassytown by China Miéville. And Rule 34 by Charles Stross. That's right - leaving aside Zoo City, I've nominated Priest's latest novel, a novel he has labelled as an inferior one by a potentially great writer, and one whose inclusion on the Clarke shortlist he has called "indefensible". And nothing he has said has caused me to doubt my choices.
Some more detailed reaction...Collapse )
So, the nominees may be able to look after themselves, but the judges? Under these conditions, any panel confronted with any attack - even one consisting of M. John Harrison, John Clute, Christopher Priest, Ursula K. LeGuin and David Langford, attacked by a teenager with a couple of showy but nonsensical arguments - could find difficulty in responding. The judges may be an easy target, but then - any target working under rules that don't allow it to respond to attack is easy.

25th December 2011

12:10am: Season's greetings...
however you choose to refer to the season (and indeed to the forthcoming year, or your preferred similar time interval).

5th October 2011

8:44pm: The first volume of a new Paula Volsky trilogy now out???
Just under a year ago, I posted an entry here headed A new Paula Volsky trilogy out next year? It started "I think that I have firm evidence that the first volume of a new trilogy by Paula Volsky, probably set in a different world from that of her previous novels, will be published next autumn" and finished "But one thing puzzles me - why no formal announcement yet?" (in between, I said a bit about Volsky's previous novels and the evidence for a forthcoming trilogy).

Nearly a year later, still apparently no announcement - but two comments to that entry, one (a few months back) remarking on the continuing lack of an announcement. And the second one, yesterday, telling me that the first volume is out but under a pseudonym - The Traitor's Daughter by Paula Brandon (ISBN: 0553583808).

No more evidence so far than an LJ comment from someone I had never come across before, but I am rather inclined to believe it. The fact is, I'd already guessed but was unable to come up with any real evidence. Roughly the same publication date as I'd been expecting, the same publisher, a similar title to what previous rumours had been suggesting ("The Traitor's House", if I remember correctly), even the same author's first name - very coincidental but... And, while Volsky was never forthcoming about biographical details, the couple I have picked up about Brandon match Volsky's. What leads me to believe it, though, are details in the advance reviews - the character names feel similar (though not the same), ditto the vaguely Miévillesque non-humans, ditto mechanical intelligences, ditto a story starting in a situation ripe for revolution.

The oddity if so, though, is that the only direct evidence in favour I have had so far is the one LJ comment. I would have expected someone else to have made the connection and mentioned it. And, indeed, quite a few of the reviews obviously regard this as a first novel. But even so, there's enough to make me feel that the commenter was probably telling me the truth. So I had better get hold of a copy and see whether reading it makes me feel this even more strongly.

17th August 2011

1:38pm: Watching Renovation from a distance
As has been the case in several previous years (though not last year, when I was otherwise busy at the time), I've set up a temporary public friends group of LJers attending Renovation.

While most of the LJs listed are already on my friends list, I have added others who look likely to be posting from or about Renovation - though probably dropping at least some of them again in a few weeks once it has receded into the distance. However, if you are one of the new additions, friending me back or having met me in real life or writing interestingly enough in your LJ that I have to keep reading it are good tactics for keeping you on my friends list.

If you spot any interesting LJs, LJ feeds - or indeed other web resources - about Renovation, please feel free to comment here to tell me about them.

15th January 2011

1:07am: Did YOU pass the English Baccalaureate?
I have a confession to make - forty years ago this year, I failed the English Baccalaureate. Of course, the English Baccalaureate didn't exist forty years ago - but it still didn't exist last summer when, the government tells us, tens of thousands of teenagers failed it. So this petty objection can not negate my failure.
Now for the detailsCollapse )
So that was me. What about you? Did YOU pass the English Baccalaureate?

24th December 2010

11:50pm: Season's greetings
A merry Saturnalia and a happy MMDCCLXIII to all.

20th November 2010

6:47pm: Three half-myths about the government's university funding plans
Some thoughts I've been carrying around with me for weeks (usually while reacting "But... But..." to someone else's thoughts) and have finally got onto pixels.
Half-myth 1: The government will no longer be funding most university teachingCollapse )
Half-myth 2: The government is stripping the humanities of all teaching funding but protecting that for STEM subjectsCollapse )
Half-myth 3: The government is abandoning most university teaching to market forcesCollapse )
In brief: however bad the myth, there's always room to do worse still (sometimes while complaining about the inaccuracy of the myth).

21st October 2010

7:18pm: "...who we really need is the Doctor."
I am sure some of my LJ friends must have seen this before - I hadn't.

12th October 2010

1:21am: A new Paula Volsky trilogy out next year?
I think that I have firm evidence that the first volume of a new trilogy by Paula Volsky, probably set in a different world from that of her previous novels, will be published next autumn, with the remaining two volumes to follow soon after. Assuming I am right, this is news!

So who is Paula Volsky?Collapse )

The evidenceCollapse )

But one thing puzzles me - why no formal announcement yet?

17th September 2010

2:17am: When liberals turn Islamophobe
I have twice got myself into unpleasant arguments about medieval history - and both times (to caricature a bit) my opponents telling me that Islam was so e-e-evil that "Islamic civilisation", in any period, was a contradiction in terms and that I must be some kind of apologist for Islam to suggest otherwise. The second time was in a Wikipedia edit spat - the first, a few weeks after 9/11 was with someone who, up to then, I'd respected as a genuine liberal and, with severe reservations, still do. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Moon has just demonstrated, nearly eight years later, that her views on Islam have not changed.

Well, more than enough people have piled into her this time and I'm not going to add to them, as she obviously isn't going to change her views on the topic (except perhaps to harden them further). But I would note that in this she is just an extreme case of a phenomenon I've come across repeatedly during the past few years - the person whose liberal views attenuate or vanish when Islam is the topic of discussion.

So, if that's you (and it probably is most of us to some extent, including me), don't assume that just because some Muslims believe that Islam mandates terrorism against non-Muslims or apostates, or female circumcision, or wearing burqas, or telling non-Muslims how to lead their lives, that most or all do - or that it's the real Islamic view. Islam contains as great a spectrum of views as Christianity (or atheism), and different parts of the Quran are just as open to different readings as the Bible. And while terrorism or female circumcision must not be condoned, accept that those who believe these to be enjoined by their religion usually do so genuinely - and that you, as a Christian, Jew or atheist, are unlikely to be able to persuade them otherwise. If you can, find another Muslim whose views they will respect to do so instead.

Yes, many Muslims living in America or Europe have found it difficult to come to an accommodation with their host societies - and even more of those living in Islamic countries have seen no point in accommodating to the non-Muslim world. But that's something to be worked on, not used as a reason to condemn or criticise their religious beliefs.

29th April 2010

8:46pm: Some things that should worry us about Bigotgate
First, the statutory declaration of interest: I'm a Labour Party member and am helping out in a small way with my local Labour candidate's campaign (only leafleting so far this time round, but I'll almost certainly be knocking on doors on election day).

Second, while I've not done any canvassing so far at this election, I've done it many times before - and one of the main rules of canvassing is "don't get into an argument on the doorstep - particularly with someone who might vote for your party". Unfortunately, that very occasionally means standing on a doorstep for five minutes listening to an extremely toxic rant and maintaining a very fixed smile - and I'm sure that, a couple of times, I've muttered far more offensive things than "bigot" once off the doorstep.

Third (of course), while we don't (yet) live in anything close to a panopticon society, we are closer to it than ever before - and public figures closer still. Gordon Brown was, metaphorically, still on the doorstep until out of reach of every microphone and camera, and he should have remembered it.

Fourthly, is Mrs Duffy a bigot? Unfortunately, though I'm not happy to say so, yes. A bigot can probably be best characterised as a person who believes that most (right-thinking) people agree with them (the "lurkers support me in email" syndrome?) - and that seems to be true of Mrs Duffy.


Fifthly, I'm not happy to say that Mrs Duffy is a bigot, because she almost certainly did not deserve to be outed as one. An elderly woman in a Lancashire former mill town has every reason to believe that her social environment is no longer what it was - and in fact significantly worse than what it was. And to believe that something must have made it that way. And, if she couldn't find sufficient good reasons for that, should we be surprised that she found bad ones?

And finally, even if (as I suspect) millions of English people agree with Mrs Duffy's comment about eastern Europeans "flocking" to this country, it's something of a disaster that that seems to be the case.

To start with, the eastern Europeans concerned are by and large leading very productive lives here, and have every reason to feel demeaned and offended by such attacks - and I find elmyra's comments about it on LJ (followed up here) and the Guardian website fully justifiable.

And, even leaving the feelings of eastern European immigrants aside, the attitude makes no sense for us previous inhabitants. Consider that, while all major parties are treating immigration as a problem, none of the major parties are proposing to stop, or even hamper, immigration from eastern Europe - and ask why.

The first reason is that it would be in clear contradiction of EU rules on internal freedom of movement. Though that is not much of a reason (after all, the Conservatives at least are against plenty of other EU rules) until one considers the next one.

Which is that, collectively, we British gain distinctly more than we lose from those EU rules. If we want to retire to Bulgaria - or, more likely, Spain or France - it is those rules that allow us to do so. If we want a weekend break in Prague, Paris, Rome or Berlin without first queuing for three hours at the relevant embassy and completing a ten-page form, again it is those rules that allow us to do so.

And the rules have to work both ways. If we want the right to flock to the rest of the EU - and we do - the other inhabitants of the EU are perfectly entitled to flock here in return.

Though, finally, note that this dumps the worst effects of all parties' placatory gestures against immigration on non-EU immigrants. And just how fair is that?

23rd April 2010

1:42pm: Sometimes one just has to copy a meme...

Help pwilkinson and get your own badge!
(The Livejournal Electioniser was made by robhu)




EDIT: Do note that, if you "help" me, your vote will not be entirely secret - I'm fairly sure that the badges are automatically updated and that any sufficiently persistent and unscrupulous LJ user could use this fact to find out how you had voted.

By the way, I voted Labour.

13th April 2010

7:36pm: Why you need to be very careful with election statistics
I think I had already come across at least one reference to Voter Power, a website designed to show you (if you are a British voter) how much your vote is "worth" in the forthcoming general election. However, it was a post by the_magician that got me interested enough to look. My verdict? Nice graphics, they have calculated an impressive set of statistics - but unfortunately the content is very much an example of what can go wrong if you concentrate on figures to the exclusion of everything else.

By the way, declaration of interest: I'm a Labour Party member and will occasionally be out campaigning over the next few weeks - but I don't think that influences what I say below (much).
And just why...Collapse )
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