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This is a clone of my LiveJournal blog.

There's been no activity there since June of 2014, and only intermittent posts for a couple of years before that - there was precisely one entry in 2012 (!) - but for various reasons I decided to import everything to Dreamwidth.

The import turned out to be an easy process even for someone as non-tech-savvy as me. It merely took a bit of time as the transfer worked its way up the queue.

I can't promise there'll be much more happening here than there was on LJ, I seem to spend most of my social time on Tumblr (same username as here, why complicate things?) while Diane, who's also migrated her LJ and username, is nagging me about finally putting a bunch of interesting posts into my reworked website then getting it up and running.

This Will Happen, I promise. Once the revised "Dragon Lord" and "War Lord" have been copy-edited for their e-publication by Venture Press, I'll be ready for a break. And equally ready to write something new!

Meanwhile I've already re-linked with a couple of old friends from The Other Side (add woo-woo noises if desired)...

Kim Knight

Jun. 6th, 2014 02:36 pm
petermorwood: (Basic Sword Pic)


This is our friend Kim Knight - Kimmie, or even Kimmiwinkles.

Kim and her band of usual suspects were the concoms for the UFP series of Star Trek conventions in the UK, some of the best organised, smoothest-running and most fun cons we’ve ever attended.

UFP-Con 1986 was the one where we met up for the third time. Not happenstance, not coincidence, certainly not enemy action; it was third time pays for all, but even then we were so very quiet and subtle that when we finally revealed our secret engagement…

…Kimmie, Ros and Ali already had champagne waiting on ice!

Kim visited us in Ireland, travelled with us to see a solar eclipse in Germany, met up with us unexpectedly in LA, and introduced us to amazing people. She was one of the most amazing - warm-hearted yet businesslike, kindly yet efficient, humorous yet hard-nosed, all wrapped up in one loveable, huggable package.

Kimmie died on the 11th of May 2014, from complications of the diabetes she bore and fought so gallantly. It would have been her birthday on the 31st of May. Instead her funeral is today, the 6th of June, and we can’t even be there.

Our friend Sarah made this piece of art, which we share with you all: the dedication plate of a happy ship on which we’d proudly serve


We miss you, Kimmie, but you’re not really gone.

What’s loved, lives.

petermorwood: (Basic Sword Pic)

Probably not news to many, but an unhappy surprise for me and for Diane. Abbie the cat will blog no more. I hadn't checked his blog for a while, and when I looked in a few minutes ago I found this...

It's like losing one of our cats all over again.

Rob (Abbie's Guy) wrote: I did not think it right to announce Abbie's condition in character...

It was enough of a wrench to read it as-is; as-Abbie would have hurt as much to read as it would have been for Rob to write. There was quirky spelling, odd punctuation, sage comments on life, great humour - and sometimes, as at the death of Martha his sister, a quiet melancholy that could comfort you while it broke your aching heart so the healing could begin. I've read that post for its comfort five times over the years since it was first posted.

I've just read it again for Abbie.

He was a Good Cat.
petermorwood: (Basic Sword Pic)
Advance warning for bad language - not mine, it's part of someone else's quoted post.


The Japanese sword is a good weapon. What it’s not is some weird combination of Excalibur and lightsabre.

The European longsword is a good weapon. What it’s not is some weird combination of iron club and barbell.

It would be easy to adopt the approach displayed by some, er, uncritically enthusiastic katana-fans, which is to hit capslock, shout, swear and diss every other sword and the people who used them. Like so:

Here’s the thing fuckwads. Katanas were used by MASTERS OF BATTLE called SAMURAI who knew precisely WHERE to hit, WHEN to hit, HOW MUCH FORCE THEY’D NEED, ETC. Samurai (at least when they started out, they got pretty corrupted and sloppy toward the end) were ONE WITH THEIR BLADE. The katana was known as the Samurai’s soul.

The FUCKING LONGSWORD on the other hand, was handed out to basically any fucking FARM BOY who happened to enlist/get recruited into the fucking army. That’s the equivalent of YOU picking up a fucking SWORD and getting thrown into battle. So yeah, they’re going to fucking need to be durable because no idiot who picks up a sword is going to know where to swing it so it doesn’t shatter into a million pieces. Oh and by the way, a long sword is also nearly 3 times the weight of a katana (ITS A FUCKING HACKING WEAPON), so it wouldn’t be nearly as precise or fast as a katana. And after about 10 swings, your arms will be fucking DEAD TIRED. Do you understand how much a fucking sword weighs? ITS A GIANT FUCKING CHUNK OF METAL. ITS NOT A FUCKING STICK YOU PLAY GAMES WITH…

And so on…

This reads like someone in frantic denial about something they don’t like because it may well be true and that spoils their worldview. They’re not alone, apparently. It also reads like someone who has probably never touched a real sword of either kind, or read anything about them other than on-line misinformation and hype.

Read the raving again, but add a bit of common sense. If a weapon is so heavy that swinging it ten times leaves your arms dead tired, what the hell use is it?

Farm boys weren’t given longswords, longbows or anything else required long training. They were given pikes, or bills, or some other polearm not too far removed from the farm tools they were accustomed to using, and a short, no-real-skill-required chopping sword called a falchion as backup. Again, not too different to the tools they used every day. And then like any soldier, before “getting thrown into battle” they’d be drilled in how to use them. That’s always assuming the baron didn’t leave his farm labourers labouring on the farm where they would do some good and go to war with the properly trained men-at-arms who made up his retinue.

Steel will shatter, if it’s tempered to be hard, inflexible and brittle. Drop a modern Solingen straight-razor on a tiled floor and if you’re unlucky, you’d think it had been made of glass. Bits everywhere. Swords were not tempered that way. No smith would let one out of his forge.

And yes, I do understand how much a sword weighs, and three to four feet long is not what I call “giant”.

The longsword was not “three times heavier” any more than the katana was a featherweight. Sometimes one would be a bit heavier than the other, but if they were about the same length, they were about the same weight. Any extra ounces added by the longsword’s more elaborate guard and pommel would be balanced by the single-edged katana’s thicker blade. They weren’t blunt, either. Ewart Oakshott (who handled and collected real swords and wrote real books about them) mentions a sword of about 1125 AD in the Wallace Collection, London, whose edges “are as sharp as a well-honed carving knife.” If you think that’s blunt, go into your kitchen, hone your own carving knife and run it hard across the palm of your hand. I’d recommend dialling 911 or 999 first; you might have trouble doing so afterwards…

Top-line katanas and top-line European longswords were superb things, art objects as much as weapons, but average katanas weren’t so impressive and were actually made of poorer steel than the equivalent average longsword. Japan is not a mineral-rich country (they’ve fought wars over it) and all the folding and hammering katana-fans make such a big deal about was because Japanese swordsmiths had to improve their shoddy basic material by beating the impurities out of it without beating all of them out, since those “impurities” include the percentage of carbon that makes iron into steel. This was done for all swords, but it’s obvious that weapons for the average retainer grunt wouldn’t get anything like the level of attention given to those made for a great daimyo.

Also the aforesaid retainer grunt, usually armed with a yari (straight-bladed spear), was no more a “master of battle” than the average European feudal grunt armed with a bill or pike. Learning how to handle a sword properly took time and money; low-level grunts didn’t have much of either. “Samurai” means “servant”, and for every elegant, calligraphy-writing, flower-arranging, combat-skill-honing nobleman, there were a couple of hundred not-much-more-than-peasants standing guard in the rain.

What katanas get is an unbelievable level of hype in Western media, as related in this thoughtful essay by the late Hank Reinhardt.  Working out the whens, whys and wherefores of that is another essay in itself. The sort of stuff restricted to legendary Western swords like Excalibur, Balmung and Durendal are accepted as something any katana can do with ease. Cutting a machine-gun barrel in half? Katana. (There’s supposedly “real film” of this, but like the Loch Ness Monster it’s always been seen by someone else. If it exists at all, it’s most likely WW2 propaganda with a fake gun.) Cutting stone without damage? Katana. Cutting through armour without blunting? Katana.

Bullshit accepted without criticism and defended with shrill obscenity? Katana…

What all this has done is make the katana a bit of a joke (except to the people with the itchy capslock fingers) which is a shame. It’s a good sword. Sometimes it’s a great sword. But it’s not and never has been a magic sword.
petermorwood: (Basic Sword Pic)
The white cat is gone, into the quiet earth beneath the hawthorn tree beside Kasha, and Lilith, and Bubble, and Pip, and Beemer, and Squeak.

Goodman was the last of our Old Brigade, the succession of amiable, fascinating feline personalities who've been with us almost since we started living in Ireland. Not having one of them in the house today feels very strange.

Richard brought him to our back door sixteen years ago, a small damp scrap of off-white fur he'd found stuffed into a hollow tree half-full of water and left to drown. Why our back door in particular?

“You’re the only people around here with cats as pets. Could you take him in? Or should I just knock him on the head as the kindest thing?”

Richard's a farmer, not given to being sentimental about animals, so he was just giving us the practical option - but by then the damp scrap had climbed onto my shoulder, and that’s where he fell asleep.

End of discussion.

Goodman had lots of adventures, including some very silly ones like catching a leveret, discovering baby hares with nothing to lose are FIERCE and not knowing what to do next. (We rescued him, took it back into the field and after being threatened ourselves, let it go.)

Then there was the time he tried catching a duck and came back green to the waterline. All we needed was some gold food-colouring and he would have been the star of St Patrick’s Day. Some fur from the ginger tomcat up the hill would have done it too; there were frequent exchanges of opinion that Goodman always won.

And there was the time he caught and somehow choked down an entire coot. We thought he’d been poisoned and took him to our vet, who couldn’t stop laughing when he showed us the X-ray: beak, neck, feet, the lot, all crammed inside. Mineral oil and time put things right, and Mr Goodman was rather less greedy from then on.

Today it was time to help Goodman leave a body that was old and tired and failing, and move on to a new one. So I lifted him onto my shoulder where he’d been sixteen years ago.

And like the first time we met, that’s where he fell asleep.

He was our friend. They were our friends.

Good-night, kitty. Good-night, all.

(This little eulogy is also here on Tumblr, with some photos.)

petermorwood: (First Form Mug Shot)
Two years ago it was for Squeak, and I didn't post anything either before or after. I was so wretched that words wouldn't work even though they're the tools of my trade, because it was the first time in 11 years we had to play a role in what happens. Accidents are a shock, but they mean you don't have to make That Decision.

Tomorrow morning the call will be for Goodman, to grant him easy passage to be with all the friends who’ve gone before. He’s 16, his kidneys have been failing, the meds aren’t working any more and it’s as if he waited for Diane to come home from her business trip to London then stopped holding on. He faded away this past week, and now it’s time for the last kindness, though doing it still hurts.

When Goodman’s gone, there won’t be any cats in the house for the first time in 25 years. That’s going to hurt too; there was always at least one waiting to be petted and give us a comforting purr when we came back from the sad place under the hawthorn tree. Not now. The place is going to be very quiet.

We’ll adopt kittens in a while (assuming none arrive on the doorstep as happened with Squeak, Beemer, Bubble and Pip) but not straight away. It would seem overhasty, disrespectful, like doing no more than plug a gap.

Besides, if some, never mind all, of D’s business trip comes to pass it may mean we won’t have time. We’ll be very happy if it works out.

I wish we could be happy now.


petermorwood: (First Form Mug Shot)
This story is a fantasy, but some of its background is true: the Belfast Blitz; the Auxiliary Fire Service; the Men from the South; and my toy fire-truck set…

I'd started to wonder if that toy was just a trick of memory, because in nearly fifty years I'd never seen another one. Despite eBay, Google and all the rest, it remained elusive. Then I found a photo on-line, from 1962, of a small boy playing with the exact same fire-truck set. He was even wearing the Fire Chief’s Helmet. That photo helped confirm my inspiration for the original story.

(It's now here, tidied up and with cover art. But still free to download in generic epub and most other formats...)

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A lot of you will have seen D's posts about what happened to our household account two days ago. Ouch, a lot!

We, however, have seen what happened in the Interwebs when Diane let people know about it, and...

And, well, thank you all. I thank you, D thanks you and Mr Goodman the White Cat thanks you. (Brush off the shed fur in your own time.)

It was a straight-up fraud, so we WILL be recompensed by the bank ("in due course", as they say, which could mean all sorts of things.) You helped, more than helped, to get us out of a potential yawning hole.

Appreciated. A lot.

More later, and if I can get Calibre working properly, a story. Meanwhile, a good night's sleep for the first time in three days.

G'night - and thank you all.

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Hugo winner. Nebula winner. The first great female SF writer. SFWA Grand Master. Grand Dame. Grandmother. Mother. Horsewoman. Dragon Lady.

She was the first big name SF writer I ever met to talk to, rather than nod in awe at. It was my second, or maybe third, convention, a smallish affair in Hull. Anne McCaffrey was GoH, so I bought all her books from the Sign of the Dragon bookshop stall and asked her to sign them. I behaved like a fanboy. She bought a copy of The Horse Lord and asked me to sign it. She behaved like a professional.

She'd given me her address, one pro to another, so when The Demon Lord came out I sent her a copy. In her letter of thanks was an invitation to visit, with directions. Unfortunately they were directions for someone who already knew the area, and this was before GPS, or indeed sensibly-sized road signs in Dublin. Sometimes all you could see was the capital letter. That's why I wound up heading for Waterford, or it might be Wexford, rather than Wicklow...

By the time I got my bearings it was nudging midnight, and I couldn't call (this was also before cellphones) because rural phoneboxes were rare as hen's teeth. In addition I'd learned (this still happens) that out in the country late at night, if you don't have exact directions for someone's house then you won't get much help from the locals. "Sure, and if she'd wanted you to find her wouldn't she have told you how herself..."

Finally I realised that Dragonhold - the old one - was down a long driveway between high hedges that looked more like a lane. A lane I'd passed three or four times already. Annie's directions were just fine. My navigation, not so much. So I drove slowly down the lane, wheels crunching on gravel, a car with Northern Irish plates crawling up to an isolated Southern Irish farmhouse at past one in the morning. I got out, backlit by the headlights, one hand raised for a timid I'm-so-late knock.

That was when the door opened and the Dobermanns came out, making noises that suggested I might be crunchy and good with ketchup. Or even without ketchup. I don't usually ignore dogs like that, but this time I did, because I had something else to concentrate on. Have you any idea how big a shotgun looks from the wrong end at that hour of the morning? Like a matched pair of railway tunnels, that's how big.

But the railway tunnels were shaking a bit, because the dressing-gowned, benightied lady at the far end was trying not to laugh. "I wasn't expecting company any more," says Annie, "and since I'm an old lady living alone-" except for the shotgun and the Dobies "-you know how it is." Uh-huh. Yup. "You can put your hands down now." I don't remember them going up. "And come on in. I'm sure you'd like a cup of coffee." There's a twinkle in her eyes. "With a little something in it."

Half an hour later I'm snuggled down on the sofa-bed in the living-room, Saffy the female Dobie has decided to be my friend, there's a peat fire settling into ash behind the guard and I've been assured that the gun wasn't loaded. So what Annie took out of it when she thought I wasn't watching was probably lipstick. BigPaws the cat ambles by, gives me a look and goes about his business. And somewhere down the corridor, beyond two closed doors, I can hear Annie laughing.

I made her laugh a lot, sometimes deliberately, sometimes not. Like the time she persuaded me onto a horse for the first reluctant time in ten years, and I sat there feeling pleased with myself for about two seconds before sliding smooth as a pivot off the other side. Comedians and stuntmen practice that trick for ages. I got it right first time.

Or there was the time when I brought her my mum's Chocolate Gateau of Doom, a cake so alcoholic (the sponge, the cream filling and the dense chocolate icing use up an entire half-bottle of brandy) that it has to be kept in the fridge to prevent evaporation. This one had spent nearly 3 hours on the back seat of my car, sealed in a big round Cadbury's "Roses" tin... Annie's stable manager Derval ambled over and popped the lid in hopes of a nice choccy. The near-visible cloud of brandy vapour that jumped out at her provoked a memorable cry of "Jayzus, does your mammy own a feckin' distillery?" and if she'd been smoking her usual thin roll-up, we'd be looking for her eyebrows yet. But the only explosion that time came from Annie, who laughed until she nearly burst.

Then there was the time when she suggested I meet up with her at Albacon '86, the Easter Convention in Glasgow, where she was one of the guests. And the time after that when she suggested I go to a very small one-day event in London, run by Sign of the Dragon. The same person was there both times, a tall, slender American woman with big glasses and a bigger perm. I'd already bought one of her books. It was called The Door into Fire...

Other people might say that Annie threw Diane and me together until we stuck, but twice is not until. What she did was to put us in proximity and wait to see what happened - whether we would be poles apart and repel, or if she was right about an attraction she'd already noticed and I hadn't, at least not enough to recognise. I recognised it pretty soon, though, and just over a year later her son Todd was my best man. That'll be 25 years ago, come February. Perceptive lady, Anne McCaffrey.

And now you're gone. I'm honoured to say you were my friend. You wrote books that made a lot of people happy. But what you did for me was something special. You made two people happier than any book could do.

I'll never forget you, Annie Mac. Sleep well.
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I saw a sketch of Lady Sybil Ramkin-Vimes on Diane's Tumbler account last night, and for once it wasn't (much) influenced by a Paul Kidby drawing. That resurrected a thought I've often had: to what extent do costumers, cosplayers and fan-artists feel constrained by professional visualisations of written characters and regard them as the "official" version, no deviations allowed?

D's Star Trek Next Generation novel Dark Mirror originated from a discussion in Dublin's Gotham Cafe pizzeria (back in 1991 when it was still Independent Pizza South) over, as the book's acknowledgement puts it,
a large with extra cheese, extra sauce, pepperoni and hot chilies, and a medium with extra cheese, double garlic, hot chilies, and onions, along with two bottles of Orvieto Secco and a whole lot of Ballygowan water...
The discussion had nothing to do with pizza, or (originally) a novel, or even STNG; I was speculating over what the Mirror Universe version of the Wrath of Khan-period uniform (the maroon wrapover tunic one) would look like, since no such thing had ever been made "canonical" by appearance on-screen (the ONLY acceptable ST canon is TV and film; novels, comics, games etc. don't count, and as far as we knew, no Mirror uniform of the WoK style had appeared in any of those, either.)

I was holding out for all-black with silver insignia, prompting an inevitable "Black and silver; it's always black and silver with you, isn't it?" response. A couple of sketches on the back of a napkin showed that black WoK Starfleet uniforms would look more than a bit like German WW2 Panzer-crew kit, and it was later clear that I wasn't the only one thinking that way: the flight-crew uniforms in Starship Troopers were deliberately based on German WW2 self-propelled gun crew tunics; same design, grey instead of black.

Once D suggested piratical thigh-high boots instead of the "official" calf-high ones, we had started down the road that led to the Next Generation novel (my English Literature Honours Degree helped write the bit of very nasty Mirror Merchant of Venice, giving Shakespeare the lavish love for gore seen in Jacobean revenge tragedy. Diane re-wrote it, though I think mine was best.) :-) And we still haven't seen my take on the Mirror uniform, because late Classic Trek never went there…

Star Trek, Star Wars, StarGate and many other Star things, as well as Aliens, Pirates of the Caribbean etc. and lots and lots of anime are all visual inspiration came first, so costumers, cosplayers and the rest are in large part restricted, if that's the right word, to representing what's been shown on-screen with painstaking exactitude.

Sometimes it's so painstaking that the fan-made costumes are of infinitely higher quality than "the real thing" (by which I don't mean the imaginative stuff, that's not real at all, but what you'll find hanging up in the studio Wardrobe Department.) Anime and cartoon costumes seem to stretch a bit further: there are few things quite as dopey-looking as the "Clodbuster sword" (it's apparently a metal plank with a handle) taken from its cartoon and made (ahem) real. But there was also a bunch of very fetching young ladies dressed as the humanized (thankfully non-furry) form of the new-version My Little Pony. D, having written for the original series, was Much Amused by my never-seen-before interest. in this aspect of the show.. :-P

However, too often when it comes to costuming or drawing characters which were originally words on paper, there seems to be a lot of the same default-to-professional-visual-source. Discworld characters are based on Paul Kidby art - I can't recall any based on Josh Kirby's chaotic (my opinion) and inaccurate (Word of God aka Terry) covers - though there’s increasing influence from the Sky TV adaptations, even more steampunky and neo-Victorian. German fan "Otto Chriek" has built an incredible, fully-operational iconograph – wood and brass exterior, digicam and mini-printer interior; the only thing that doesn’t work is the imp! But even this looks based at least in part on one of the elaborate Kidby drawings. (Wenn ich falsch bin, Robert, entschuldigen Sie mich!)

The clothing and accessories of Harry Potter characters originate exclusively from the movie series (at least so it seems, because I haven't read any of the books, so must default here myself;) and of course the standard Lord of the Rings image isn't Tolkien but Jackson, despite years of art from other sources, some high-quality, others…not so much. Were there ever costumes based on the ridiculous Bakshi toon? If there were, and I saw them, my memory has purged itself and thankfully so. I'm fairly sure that needles and thread have already been busy on Game of Thrones costumes derived from the recent TV show, even though George R. R. Martin's own descriptions are more than adequate.

Certainly "representing the screen/cover/supplementary portfolio material" properly means that the costumer isn't relying on a masquerade audience (and judging panel) having read the appropriate paragraph from a big novel or long series before deciding if their work is accurate or not. But when it's a hall costume worn for fun rather than formal masquerade (which are often amazingly elaborate and complex) then I wonder why people don’t swing out more.

Is it (a) reticence: no matter how carefully the writer describes characters and clothing, is a costume or drawing that lacks "professional visual imprimatur" somehow incorrect?

Or is it (treading carefully here, masqueraders are my friends) (b) a subtle sort of laziness, skilfully recycling a pre-packaged image to avoid the work of visualising a writer’s words in your own way? (with a sizeable unadmitted dash of (a) lurking at the back as well?)

I have a feeling this will be discussed more thoroughly at the next convention I go to – and if the subject hasn't already been done to death somewhere, it strikes me as a good topic for a panel. Any con organiser who wants to use it can be my guest. I’d be curious to hear the result!
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A long time ago, when my parents went "South of the Border," (from Northern Ireland to the Republic) they would always bring back Cadbury's "Rum and Butter" chocolate bars (and other stuff as well, obviously...) The odd thing is that this flavour of filled-caramel bar was - apparently - only available in Southern Ireland. It's one of those tastes that can flip you back years and years.

Looks like we've just discovered the secret of time travel, then.

Yesterday, EuropeanCuisineLady (aka Diane) made a bread-and-butter pudding so we could replace the PD place-holder photo with one of our own. It's seriously yummy (not like the one in my school dinners - ew!)

But when I said - to various "taste-tester" friends - "Now what about a chocolate custard and rum in the sauce instead of whiskey?" I got a yum! yes! go for it! enthusiasm well beyond just the fact it tastes good.

I think we may have discovered the flavour of being young and having no more to worry about than exams (rather than overdrafts, mortgages and other Grown Up problems.)

First, we need to find a good rum: D suggests Myer's Planter's Punch, I hold out for Pusser's Blue Label - but if we're stuck with Havana Gold, it'll do.

More info to follow...
petermorwood: (Squeak in Box)

I'VE never been disturbed by a delivery of milk before. This morning's is an exception.

That's creepy enough. The use-by date made it much worse.

Not shopped in any way.  And no further comment required from me.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.

petermorwood: (Default)
That's how D just described me. :-)

The reason: satellite channel Yesterday is (re)showing the classic BBC POW series Colditz, something I last saw back in 1974, when I was still in Big School.

I've been watching it on and off, amused by the stiff upper lips (you could use SBO - Senior British Officer - Colonel Preston's upper lip as an ironing-board), pleased by how well the claustrophobic atmosphere stands up (there are very few scenes outside the castle walls), and delighted to find that even to this much older, more cynical viewer, bad guy Major Mohn (played with icy relish by Anthony Valentine) is as loathsome as ever.

But a flub of lines in last night's episode "Very Important Person" made me laugh out loud, and prompted D's comment.

I've mentioned before that I used to make model kits; I also painted the figures that went with them, which meant research (which is now being put to use in a new book.) I could geek out about vehicles painted the wrong colour, or uniforms with outdated rank tabs, both of which I saw, but what I heard was the funny.

An SS officer hands paperwork to a motorcycle despatch rider. "Give this to SS-Brigadeführer Schreck," he says. At least, that's what he was supposed to say. It came out as "Give this to Fifty-five Brigadeführer Schreck..."

Um. That's not just a geek error, it's a line error, and should have been spotted by whoever was script supervisor for that scene. ("It is a geek error," says D; "Only a geek would know what it was supposed to be." Like the original scriptwriter, then.) Anyway, in all the times it must have been reviewed before transmission in 1974, nobody - director, producer, editor, writer - caught it.

All right, I noticed it just last night, and maybe I am the only man on Earth who gives a whatnot (though historical and costume consultants get paid good money, as do continuity people) - but at least I don't feel so bad about the occasional typos in The Horse Lord any more! :-)
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Game of Thrones SPOILER below the cut.

(This warning wasn't in place earlier; the topic and response were high-profile enough I didn't think one was needed. Apologies to anyone affected.)

SPOILER follows )

*There was a board game called "Kingmaker". I don't know if it still exists, but it was most wonderfully convoluted. I used to play it with my best friend Charles and his two brothers, and each game was litigous ("show me in the rules where it says I can't do that...") treacherous and thoroughly entertaining.

Oh, and young Edward of Westminster's behaviour in malevolent youth is another reason why Richard III might have wanted rid of his deposed nephews (if he did it.) Edward was passing death sentences at the age of 7, and though that might have been at his mother Margaret's urging, a few years later a foreign ambassador (Milanese, I think) reported that he was talking about little else.

If Richard's nephew the ex-king Edward V (people with the same names infest this period: Edwards, Richards and Henrys are all over the place, and it's safer to go by title though you then get a railway-timetable effect: York, Gloucester, Somerset, and the every-popular saucy Worcester) ever got his throne back, I doubt he'd be very sympathetic to the uncle who proclaimed him a bastard in order to pinch it...
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I've finally been able to confirm that the UK rights for the Horse Lord / Book of Years series have completely reverted to me (though not yet the US ones – or the Philippines; why there, I wonder, and not, say, Puerto Rico?) and I'm prepping them for release as e-books, as Diane has been doing with her Young Wizards. It's given me a chance – as the dead-tree versions never did – to do some re-working, because I doubt there's a writer on the planet who hasn't looked at their early work and thought "migod you didn't ort to write a sentence like that molesworth!"

Or several sentences. Or a paragraph. Or a continuity blunder.

I've always been good at spotting those, though it's a talent that's most useful before something appears in print; afterwards can be annoying, especially when (in a recent example) the writer's finished work has been through a series of test-readers, an editor, a copy-editor and a final check of the galleys.

So it's a bit embarrassing to find one that's been in every single edition of The Horse Lord, especially when it doesn't even have the excuse of a chapter or so of action between setup and dénouement. On p.90 (UK trade) p.91 (US mass)
Aldric nodded, but slung Widowmaker round his shoulder nonetheless.
Unfortunately on p.92 of both editions
The girl's sharp eyes had noticed a fine taiken racked on the bedroom wall…
And yes, the taiken longsword is Widowmaker. In two places at once. Oops. That's going to get fixed…

There won't be massive changes; this book's been popular for 28 years, and I had evidence of that popularity a couple of days back (for which many thanks, [ profile] la_marquise_de_ - gosh, I'm mentioned in some impressive company!) so if ever there was a case of Si Non Confectvs Non Reficiat, this is it. But after those 28 years I can construct a better sentence than some of those from 1982, I can certainly write better dialogue, I know not to call mail "chainmail" any more – and I can remove my own guilty example of a pet peeve from fantasy that's started creeping into supposedly historical work as well.

It's the business of a sword slung over the owner's back and drawn from that position. The question kept coming up on Swordforum and NetSword, and nobody was able to offer any historical evidence, never mind pictorial proof, that carrying a sword that way ever happened in Europe. Seeing it done in Braveheart and King Arthur is neither evidence nor historical. But in 1982, what do we find Peter writing?
Aldric unhooked the longsword's scabbard from his weaponbelt and pulled its shoulder strap across so that the sheath rose slantwise to his back, well clear of his legs...then he gripped the long hilt rearing like an adder by his head, twisted it to loose the locking-collar and drew.
Once again, oops. That too is going to get fixed, because after experimenting with some of my own replicas (gosh, isn't Polyfilla spackle useful stuff?) it's clear that neither Aldric nor anyone else could perform this trick without arms like an orangutan or gibbon. What I did in later books was to have the across-the-back carry as a commonly-accepted "peace position", thus producing a useful bit of dramatic "business" where releasing the cross-strap so that it slides down to "ready position" for a fast draw is a direct threat, and possibly an insult as well.

Fast draw, with a sword? Yes indeed, like Japanese-style iaijutsu, because the first incarnation of Alban swords, culture and customs was very samurai-influenced. In the late '70s-early 80s it was unusual, and a change from the more usual Celtic/Viking/Medieval settings, which is why I did it, and there weren't many others. Without checking the bookshelves, I can think of Richard Lupoff's Sword of the Demon and Jessica Amanda Salmonson's Tomoe Gozen, C.J. Cherryh's superb Morgaine Cycle (especially Gate of Ivrel), a surprisingly small number of short stories, and of course me.

The fun part is to see how my fictional society evolved into something different; honourable suicide seems like a great device for dramatic tension. When you discover that it means your protagonist (all right, hero and favourite character) won't reach the end of the chapter, never mind the end of the book, it's not such a good idea, and you start looking for ways to keep him alive. When that attitude starts to influence the entire culture, soon you're dealing with people who've laid a thin veneer of lip-service honour over a bedrock of ruthless, scary pragmatism.

And that's much more interesting than ersatz samurai... :-)
petermorwood: (Default)
I’ve been feeling pretty down, for two very good reasons, so today’s foofaraw left me colder than usual and I didn't watch it. Stuff to research, then stuff to write, and a quick Spellcheck correction to make sure there's always an umlaut in Obersturmbannführer and the other cumbersome SS ranks. I have my reasons... ;->

Diane recorded some of the material so I could examine Ruritanian ceremonial, uniforms and so on, though strictly ""Ruritanian" should read "Upper Saxon with a bit of Austro-Hungarian Bohemian", as pointed out by [ profile] silverwhistle, one of the most intelligent and articulate analysts of the region's dodgy politics and dubious PR. All very nice, twinkly and shiny, but if TV commentators are going to use obscure terms, then they need to know that calling an "epaulette" a "shoulder-board" is forgiveable, but that an "aiguilette" is not just a different and more fancy word for the same thing.

In all the processional stuff, there were two images that made me smile: a close-up of The Littlest Bridesmaid, bored out of her tiny skull and not afraid to show it, and a shot of the groom going "phew" in a way I identified with, having done it myself in similar circumstances a bit longer ago than yesterday. (I'll try to screen-cap these and post them later.)

However, when I was in our local pub with Diane, cradling blisters from digging in ground that was a quarter rocks and glumly drinking to the memory of a fine cat, a very fine cat indeed, we heard someone make the waspish comment that England should send some of the Royal Wedding costs his way, because "I now pronounce you man and wife" would start the countdown to the next Royal divorce and a book should be opened forthwith.

We didn't think much of it at the time; west Co. Wicklow isn't a hotbed of Royalist sentiment at the best of times, but a look at Google suggests he's not the only one. Indeed, given the recent Royal record on Royal marriages that last (not many, and none of the high-profile ones at all) five quid each way would probably be a safe investment.

Mesdames et messieurs, faites vos jeux...
petermorwood: (Default)
"...I do not think it means what you think it means."

Decimate. Decimation. Decimated.

I've just watched a documentary in which that word was used to describe the effect of air raids on cities during WW2. Once is forgiveable, a slip of the narrator's tongue that nobody caught before transmission, but it came up repeatedly, almost monotonously, and suggested that the writer of the narration had fallen in love with the way it sounded, but never bothered to check what it meant.

I hadn't realised the bombing campaign was so ineffective that it left 90% of the targets undamaged, because to decimate something means to reduce it by 10%. It was a Roman Army punishment in which a unit guilty of some serious offence, usually mutiny or cowardice, would draw lots and then one man in every ten would be executed by his nine companions.

It's not just this particular documentary that's to blame; the misuse happens a lot, to the extent that Diane's heard me applaud when I hear it used correctly. (Pathetic, isn't it?) I wish I knew why this error has become so common, because clearly the assumption is that something decimated has been massively damaged - though I wouldn't credit anyone with thinking it means that only 10% remains. That would be giving credit where it probably isn't due. More likely, the word really intended is devastate and its variants.

Either way it's one of those niggling annoyances, like an itch you can't scratch.
petermorwood: (Default)
While Sharper Image existed, I used to spend too much quite a lot of time with my nose in their catalogues. I can't recall ever buying anything, mind you, and often wondered why anyone would actually want some of the nonsense on offer. A bit like Skymall catalogues, in a way.

The various websites for Manufactum are a bit that way too, although with a lower "who'd want that?" response and a much higher rate of "I'd love that but ouch!", though NB the UK and International ones are very watered-down, a bit like US site ThinkGeek versus UK site I Want One of Those used to be. They've grown more similar, but there's still a caffeine-in-everything section in one and a bar-and-beer section in the other. Guess which? (The B&B features a Thing I have lusted after ever seeing one in the possession of Constable Haddock of the Ankh-Morpork Watch at last Discworld con: a sensibly-sized hip flask.. Tee hee.)

Lots of the stuff Manufactum sells is equally practical and handsomely designed, just very expensive. Anybody want to buy a Morgan 4/4 1600 sports car from an on-line catalogue store? Manufactum can accommodate you. (I thought it was a model at first, but the tag of €43,850.00 corrected this misapprehension.)

That's where I saw this amazing piece of stuff, which looks more like a movie prop than anything real. It could be at the back of a Titanic-era boiler-room set and not look out of place.

There are other variants, one where the burner is built into a cooktop, another which exchanges the upper oven for a stone-filled storage heater. An additional photo for that one shows it built into a wall-unit, but those who delight in rivets would just leave the works on display for all to admire.

I'd say it was cool, except that's hardly the right word for a heater. Don't park the Zeppelin too close...
petermorwood: (Default)
In 1979 I wrote what later (much, much later) became The Horse Lord.

Since I was at university, reading English Lit., I asked a couple of my tutors to have a look at it. Apart from the usual vague encouragements nothing much happened: it was a bit too far removed from Shakespeare and Chaucer.

Then in 1981 I got a letter from Alastair Minnis, who'd moved to Bristol Uni (he's now a full Professor at Yale.) I'd been mentioned, Lord knows why, to his colleague's wife Mrs Burrow, who was a Real Writer, and she'd expressed interest in reading the stuff. So I sent it to Alastair, he passed it on, and a few weeks later I got a letter back.

That was the first time I realised that Mrs Burrow was also Diana Wynne Jones, and I'd already been reading her books; I remember Cart and Cwidder and Power of Three in particular.

She was witty, perceptive, insightful, helpful... If it's possible to hold someone's hand across the wet bit between Belfast and Bristol, then Diana held mine. "One gets so little chance," she wrote, "to talk to anyone about writing, at least of the making-things-up kind."

There were other letters, with advice, with gossip, with encouragement - I still have them all in my scrapbook - and then the phonecall that wasn't a long-range hand-hold but a long-range pat on the back when Horse Lord finally sold.

My favourite among all her books is The Tough Guide to Fantasyland - my copy is ragged, dog-eared and usually bristles with bookmarks - because it's so full of the funny, accurate comments I first saw in those letters. And there are a few that are more pointed than others; "Apostrophes" for instance, or "Names" (SWORDS...seem very proud of being known to be really Excalibur or Widowmaker.) Not an uncommon sword-name, in fantasy or folklore, but I always get the feeling of being twinkled at over the rim of a pair of specs...

And then today's news.

Not the jolting shock of something totally unexpected, but the sadness that it didn't happen later, whenever that might be. Yet today is later, if you look at it from yesterday, and much, much later than last year.

I'm glad Diana had some later.

I wish she could have had some more.
petermorwood: (Default)
Diane spotted someone’s Twitter enquiry about the skool uniform colours of that admirable educational institution St Custard’s, but when she asked my advice, to mutual surprise I couldn't produce an answer straight away. So I went looking. Well, you do, don’t you?

It would seme that Skool uniform colours aren't described anywhere in the text, at least nowhere I spotted during an admittedly cursory flip through my copy of The Compleet Molesworth. The interior black and white line drawings by Ronald Searle most frequently show a light blazer with dark lapels, light piping and a badge on the breast pocket.

How to be Topp (Armada and Armada Lion, also Puffin, all early-1970s paperbacks) represent it as a yellow blazer with black piping, which is also the colour scheme used on at least one (the US?) version of Back in the Jug Agane, an edition of The Compleet Molesworth, (Pavilion 1985) and a retitled compilation simply called Molesworth (Penguin Modern Classics 2009.) The most common cover for Whizz for Atomms shows Molesworth 1 in a bubble-helmeted space-suit, though it does have a school badge on the chest, but lurking in the depths of Google Images (it was lurking, not me) I found a tiny cover image of an Atomms cover where once again he is clad in yellow-and-black. This colour scheme is not only the one most recently and frequently used, it's probably the most easily recognised, and also most closely represents the light-blazer-with-dark-piping of the monochrome drawings.

The above fakts are correkt for a change. I had all of the above books when I too was but a mere skoolboy, but after the passage of many years, had cause to check my recollections in the aforesaid Google Images. (Posh prose eh? Go it, Morwood.)

However Searle's drawings also show a light blazer with light lapels and dark piping, a dark blazer with dark lapels and light piping, and a "Henley Regatta" striped blazer suitable for both Fotherington-Thomas and that rather unsettling pupil whose "developing individual character" evidently includes Resurrection, and not the kind taught in Divinity. These are all in Down with Skool, so it's not a change of uniform between different books. Long trousis are usual, with shorts for new bugs. The school cap is always represented as being "hooped" – horizontally striped – light and dark, with a badge at the front.

The Down with School cover of the Armada and Armada Lion 1970s paperback shows a red blazer with yellow piping and a red and yellow hooped cap; these colours also appear on the cover of Back in the Jug again (same publisher, and when viewed alongside Down with Skool, very clearly the same cover designer.) The red blazer also appears on a reissue (or possibly US edition) of The Compleet Molesworth but when compared to the frequency of the yellow-and-black colour scheme, the red-and-yellow is no more than a temporary aberration.

Or hav I missed something…?

(And I note that [ profile] miss_next is looking for some information about Radio Malt. I shall go looking for that, too. Funny that two questions about Molesworth would pop up on the same day... It must be an omen.)

April 2017



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