28 February 2007

Too much Christmas pudding

The RSNO’s concert at the Royal Concert Hall last Saturday was rather heavy going. It got off to a good start with a fine performance of Sibelius’s Valse Triste. After that it rapidly went downhill. The next item was Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, which is one of my favourite pieces of music. Unfortunately the conductor (Alexander Lazarev) and soloist (Boris Belkin) failed to do the piece justice. Belkin didn’t so much play his instrument as savage it with his bow. More lyrical virtuosity and less aggression would have suited me better. Interestingly, I am not alone in that assessment. Michael Tumelty, writing in The Herald, suggests that Sibelius’s ghost could be heard wailing over the mistreatment of his music.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Elgar’s Second Symphony. I didn’t know the piece and I didn’t warm to it. For some reason, the phrase ‘overblown Edwardian romanticism’ comes to mind. Someone suggested to me that it was like eating ‘an over-rich Christmas pudding served up with too much double cream’ and we certainly left the concert hall with precisely that feeling of satiation verging on discomfort rather than pleasure.

08 February 2007


Solaris is the new kid in British speculative fiction and from what I’ve seen so far they are set to become a major player in the market. Their first books should be in the bookshops this month and include The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction as a kind of calling card.

I’ve been fortunate enough to get a preview of some of the other books on their schedule. Being a copy-editor does have its compensations – and editing for Solaris is an ideal combination of work and pleasure. So far, I have worked on:

Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas (due March 2007) is an edgy mixture of cyberpunk, noir thriller and Lovecraftian horror leavened with nice touches of irony and self-referential humour. You can read the first chapter here.

Splinter by Adam Roberts (due September 2007) is a carefully crafted piece of literary science fiction taking Jules Verne’s Off on a Comet as its inspiration. Its three sections are written in past, present and future tenses respectively. I know it sounds unpromising, perhaps even too pretentious for its own good, but Roberts has produced a masterpiece.

Infinity Plus: The Anthology (due August 2007) is a collection of stories chosen by major contributors to the infinity plus website including Stephen Baxter, Mary Gentle, Ian McDonald, Michael Moorcock, Kim Newman, Kim Stanley Robinson, Lucius Shepard, Charles Stross, Michael Swanwick and Jeff VanderMeer. I particularly enjoyed Paul Macauley’s ‘The Rift’ and Charlie Stross’s ‘The Bear Trap’ but there is something for everyone here.

Helix by Eric Brown (due June 2007) is a gripping space opera, which begins on an Earth facing runaway global warming and ends on a spiral of interconnected planetoids about 500 light-years away. In their search for a new home the crew of the Lovelock encounter a number of alien species and, on one of the planetoids, find themselves drawn into a confrontation between an oppressive church and individuals seeking rational enlightenment.

The art of complaining

Anyone who has ever had anything to with choirs will know that choir members complain about everything: other choir members, the chorus master, the choice of repertoire, the soloists, the venue, etc. Now a choir from Helsinki has taken complaining to new heights and turned it into an art form:

Lemon-scented sticky bat

In his most recent blog entry (here), Neil Gaiman asks how to get a bat off fly-paper. The answer and the reason for the question are well worth reading (well, I found them amusing!).