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The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost (Books 2017, 1)

In case it’s not obvious, the reading year starts and ends on Christmas Day. This was a Christmas present, and is also preparation for the new Twin Peaks series, which is due to air sometime this year (though what we’ll have to do to see it in the UK is an open question, and one which I’ll discuss at another time).

Mark Frost was, of course, half of the team that created the original series. This book is presented as a mysterious dossier which has been given to an FBI agent to analyse. It consists of a series of extracts from government and newspaper reports, and comments by someone who signs themselves “The Archivist.” These are further annotated by the FBI agent.

The subject matter is mysteries: the many UFO reports, going back to Roswell and before; the mysterious goings on around Twin Peaks itself; stories of the Illuminati and the masons, and so on. Some of the quoted reports are, I assume, real. Many are part of the Twin Peaks universe. As a whole the work is entertaining if you like that sort of thing — which I very much do — if a little unsatisfying. Though it has certainly whetted my appetite for the new series.

Recent Events

Just in case you think that I haven’t been paying attention to recent events… yeah, I know, how likely is that…?

Brexit? Trump? Celebrity deaths? 2016 is well behind us — though regarding Trump and Brexit, the worst is still ahead.

But anyway, I haven’t said anything about my work status since back in the summer. So I should bring things up to date.

I had a few interviews, but no serious interest. Then July was ending, and I was beginning to think that soon we’d be going on holiday, and once we got back it would be nearly September. That was longer than I fancied going without having something lined up.

And then I got a call from a recruiter telling me there was a bank in the City looking for someone with my exact skill set for a six-month contract. It was supporting — and to some extent building on — the products that I used to make at Misys. That wasn’t quite what I had seen myself doing. I was looking for something that was more of a change, more of a challenge.

But I went in to talk to them and it all sounded pretty good. A significant number of the people who work there are ex-Misys, and I know them, so it would make for a relatively smooth transition.

But a contract. I hadn’t really intended to go down that route. Still, the idea of being a freelancer appealed. I’d like to have a go at indie development one of these days, and the two can be complementary. We’ll see where that goes. But I decided to go for it. Set up the limited company (more on that in a later post), discussed the contract (including while I was on holiday) and started at the end of August.

And it’s… OK. The people are good, the location is great. But the work is not that interesting, and the internal politics are… interesting.

And there’s the pressure of knowing that you’re dealing (sometimes) with a live system. With real people’s actual money. Having only worked for a software company before, that feels unexpectedly high-pressure.

All things considered, when my contract is up for renewal at the end of February, I don’t think I’ll be renewing it (even assuming they offer it to me, which they probably will). So I’ll be looking for another position shortly. Maybe contract, maybe permanent again. It depends what comes up.

The Year Turns Again

New Year’s Day, by all the fates. Another trip round sun, another twelve months have passed. As usual I wonder, “Where did that year go?”

I’ve been fairly consistent in blogging over the last year, I think: consistently lightweight, that is. I only missed one entire month, by the looks of it (March). But it’s been infrequent at best.

So as a kind of New Year’s resolution (I don’t really go in for them normally) I’m planning — no, thats probably too strong; proposing, let’s say — to make 2017 the year of blogging every day.

Every day. It’s a big challenge, I know. But I think that it’s only if I put it out there publicly that there’s any chance I’ll carry through with it.

Or not. We’ll see. My thinking is that even a traditional link post will count, since I write at least a few words with those.

Anyway, Happy New Year, if you’re reading this and I haven’t wished you it already.

Complicity and The Business by Iain Banks (Books 2016 16 & 17)

The big Banksie reread finally gets under way again. There’s no particular connection between these two except that I read them back-to-back over two three days, partly when I was off work sick.

Complicity is just as brutal as I remembered, though I didn’t remember all the details, which was good. It feels dated now, but that’s partly just because it’s of its time, and partly, I suppose, because I remember reading it back in 1993.

The Business I remembered even less of — I know I’ve only read it once before, while I think I’ve read Complicity twice. It’s written from a woman’s PoV, and I’m sure some would say it isn’t convincing as such. Hard for me to judge that, but I liked being in the company of the narrator. Probably more so than in the former book.

It’s also Banksie’s first — but not last — to posit a secret (or secretish) organisation with its fingers into everything, that is not an evil conspiracy. Or his first non-SF to do so, at least. The Culture could be described in those terms.

Its major flaw is that there is no real sense that she’s ever in any danger. Even if things don’t turn out quite the way she’d like, the worst that could happen is that her stellar advancement in the titular organisation might be slowed, and maybe she won’t get the married man she’s kind of in love with.

All good fun, though. And they do have one thing in common: they’re both so dated that they spell laptop “lap-top”! Must be a publisher’s quirk, because I don’t think anyone in the real world ever spelt it that way.

Classy

I just watched the last episode of Class, BBC 3′s web-only1Doctor Who spinoff.

It is really, really good. If you haven’t seen it you should stop reading this now and go and watch. Really. I’ll still be here when you get back.

Eight episodes with special guest appearances at the start and (spoilers) the end, about five young people in the famous Coal Hill School. Famous from the very first episode of Who, of course, right up to the 50th and beyond. It’s now an academy, not surprisingly. And it seems that it is — or always has been — something of a nexus in space and time.

I’ll not say much more, as it would be hard not to get spoilery. But I will tell a little anecdote of how I watched it.

I saw episode 6 first. Why? Because I was careless, and iPlayer has stupid defaults. I went to the site and searched and found the programme, and started watching the first episode it presented me with. Because that would be the first episode, obviously, right?

Wrong. The rationale is sound: iPlayer is a catch-up service; and the episode you’re most likely to want to catch up on is the current one. So the episode I saw first was 6, “Detained”, which must have been current at the time.

Thing is, I don’t think there can have been a “Previously…” at the start — though there was later — or I think I’d have noticed. I was just impressed with how it started straight in, giving touches of backstory in moments of dialogue, so that by the time the five teenagers were locked in the detention classroom and the plot began to unfold, I was really impressed with this in medias res beginning and compact storytelling.

Well, of course, after that I realised my mistake and went back to the beginning. And when I got to 6 again it did have a “Previously…” But if you didn’t start at the beginning, it was probably the best one to start at.

Is it great? Maybe. It’s certainly got the potential to be so. It’s better than early Torchwood, maybe not quite as good as the best of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Well worth watching, and I hope there will be more serieseseseses.


  1. Well, that’s a tautology now, of course. 

Again, Again

A long time ago — a long, long time ago: I can’t have been more than thirteen, maybe younger — I got an accidental book.

It was in John Smith’s in Glasgow: St Vincent Street’s glory. I thought it was now long gone, but apparently not. I was there, probably with my Mum — no, undoubtedly, as I didn’t go to Glasgow on my own till I was about sixteen — I’m guessing in about January, to spend Christmas money (often given in the form of Book Tokens in those days, of course).

I bought a stack of books. I don’t now recall what any of them were, but they were almost certainly mostly or entirely SF.

As was the freebie that I got by accident. If memory serves I paid at the checkout and gathered up my books, or more likely the assistant put them in a bag for me, and then when I got on to the train back to Balloch, I took them out to have a look.

And found I had more than I’d bargained for. Worse, more than I’d paid for. There was an extra book in my bag. One that I had never seen before, that I hadn’t chosen. One with an interesting title.

Again, Dangerous Visions, Book 2, edited by Harlan Ellison.

My immediate feeling was guilt. I had, effectively, stolen a book. I was a good Catholic boy, and would never have stolen anything.

Then surprise: how had it got there? Presumably the assistant had mixed it up with the purchases of the person before me. There was probably someone sitting on a train right at that moment, realising that one of their books was missing. Poor them.

Poor them, but lucky me. I don’t think I told my Mum it had happened. Or if I did, she must have said not to worry, it was too late to do anything; and that doesn’t sound like her. One way or another, we made no attempt to return it.

But I think among the confusion and excitement of it all, I must have been slightly annoyed that it was the second volume: not much use without that first. And that “Again”: did that mean that the whole thing was some kind of follow-on?

Obviously I know now that it did. When I went to university a few years later and met a community of fans, when they mentioned the famous Dangerous Visions (non-) trilogy, I had some idea of what they were talking about.

I’d like to say that it was some kind of formative experience. That reading those legendary short stories changed my approach to the genre, or my understanding of fiction, or what have you. But I can’t really say that it did.

I eventually read the stories. Not having the earlier volumes of an anthology doesn’t cause any problem. Though I think I took the original, Dangerous Visions out of the library. Some of them were great, but I don’t recall finding any of them particularly memorable (though you never know: some things burrow deep). But one of the titles stuck with me, and is why I started writing this today.

That was “A Mouse in the Walls of the Global Village,” by Dean Koontz. Though I couldn’t have told you who it was by, and I’m quite surprised to find that it’s Koontz, who I think of as a horror author.

It came to mind because of something my beloved was saying about this interview between George Osborne and Yuval Noah Harari. She mentioned the “global village” idea, and my mind jumped back to the story and the cascade of memories that go with that book. I downloaded the Kindle version of the book (and the first one) and started writing this.

As I recall, that global village involved telepathy, and is very much not the one we are living in. But that doesn’t matter. It’s time to reacquaint myself with some old New Wave SF.