Skip to main content

The Big Disappointment

The Boundaries of Voting

I’ve been boundary-changed, and it’s made it harder to decide who to vote for.

At the last election (and until a couple of weeks ago) We were in Hackney South and Shoreditch, which was Meg Hillier’s constituency. Meg wasn’t a bad constituency MP, at least inasmuch as she answered my emails the few times I got in touch with her. Not always in ways I agreed with, but still.

But “ID Meg”, as I liked to think of her, was the government minister for ID Cards and the Database state; the biggest issue at all recent elections for me. Amusing, really, that she got into that role, if you consider my correspondence with her in 2005

If we had lived on the other side of our street back then, we’d have been in Diane Abbott’s constituency. She was opposed to the war, and to ID cards. Plus I like her on the telly (though some, apparently, complain about her second job; at least it’s a political programme she’s on, even if it’s lightweight to the point of triviality).

Five years ago I’d have voted for Diane. Today, with the boundary change, we’re in Hackney North and Stoke Newington, so I can.

And I’m not going to.

It’s all gone too far. Our electoral system is too fucked up; our Labour party is too fucked up, too corrupt. They have developed an alarming reflexive response, it seems, to always do exactly the wrong thing. A hung parliament — or, hey: a Liberal Democrat majority — might be just the change we need.

At least that way there’s a chance we’d get some taste of electoral reform.

Houses. Plagues. You Know the Rest.

Diane’s leaflet came through the door today, and it tells me that she’s still against ID cards and the Iraq war. Why, then, I have to ask, does she still retain the Labour whip? It would be more honourable to resign.

And I can’t honourably vote for the former Labour party any more (not that I did last time, but remember, I was actively against the candidate then, too). We’ve come a long way now: we’ve reached the stage where I want Labour to lose. It’s a strange place to find myself.

Maybe, I’ve always been more of a natural LibDem voter anyway. Any time I’ve done those “Political Compass”-type questionnaires, they tell me that the LibDems most closely match my answers.

But even more than wanting Labour to lose, I want the Tories to lose. I remain profoundly mistrustful of them; I lived through the Thatcher years, you know? And It’s clear that, no matter how shiny Cameron may be, lots of his members remain the same old bastards. Witness this “I cure gays” bollocks from Phlippa Stroud. And Cameron has now backed her, I see. And she has denied it.

So much for that. We know the Tories are the opposite of socially liberal; we know they take a reflexive antagonism to supporting public services; and we know we can’t trust them with the economy (you never can trust right wingers, because they believe the market is guided by an invisible hand; I mean, come on).

I Can’t Do Both, Gordie

So now Brown is saying, ‘Vote for the kind of country you believe in; and come home to Labour.’ Sorry, mon: Labour no longer represents the kind of country I believe in.

Keith Angus will be getting my vote.

From Easter to Volcano Days

I don’t get round to these things quickly, but this is, at least in part, a report on my family’s visit to Eastercon. This year the British National Science Fiction Convention was practically on our doorstep, just the other side of London, at Heathrow.

As with two years ago, my son wanted to come. And since my daughter did as well, my beloved bit the bullet and came along too. SF isn’t totally her thing, but I think she may have enjoyed the weekend more than any of us.

The telling detail was this: there are lots of things to do.

I tend to use cons as a way of seeing friends that I haven’t seen for a while — often not since the last con I was at. So I mainly hang out in the bar. Or that, at least, is the impression I gave — give — to people who don’t go to cons.

In fact, I have always gone to programme items. I guess I just never made a big thing of them when I got home.

This con — Odyssey 2010 — had a particularly good set of programme items for kids. There were hands-on science workshops, making Dalek cakes, and building string-propelled robots (my son won a prize for the best ramp-mounting attempt). And not least, a thrilling battle between various knights of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

The programme was full of fascinating and fun things, many of which I wanted to see, but didn’t manage to, as ever.

And of course, I saw a lot of old friends, and had a good time hanging out in the bar with them.

We only stayed for the Friday and Saturday nights, to keep costs down. But after going home on the Sunday (and watching the new Doctor Who again), we went back on the Monday, and spent most of the day back at the Radisson.

Travelling all across London was a bit of drag, but it was a lot shorter than many people’s journeys. And of course, there was absolutely no chance of ash-induced delays.

Am I a bad person because I found all the volcanic disruption kind of amusing and quite fun, really? The cloudless and contrail-free blue skies over London were gorgeous, and it was interesting to follow people’s tweets of how they were striving to get home. And a world with a lot fewer flights is something we’re probably going to have to face in the future.

What annoyed me about it all were the idiots who blamed the government. Marginally more sensible than blaming ‘god’, I suppose1, but even if anything other than sending in the Navy had been the government’s decision, can you imagine the fuss if flights had been allowed to go ahead, and there had been a disaster?

Plus, the idea of getting a trip home on the Ark Royal is pretty cool.

  1. As somebody said, if that’s an act of god, then it’s a pretty limited kind of omnipotent deity.

Easter Time is Here Again

Easter rolls around on its mad-god-inspired schedule, and so too does Eastercon, the British National Science-Fiction Convention.

This year, as it was two years ago, it’s in the Radisson Edwardian Hotel, near Heathrow. Not the most pleasant or interesting of locations, but it does have the large advantage for me of being relatively close to home. An hour and forty minutes by bus and tube, if TFL is to be believed. And curiously, not much less time overall if you take the crazily-expensive Heathrow Express.

Anyway, the whole family are coming with me this time, which should be fun. We’re just staying for the Saturday and Sunday nights, though some of us may pop back on Monday.

I don’t have any particular plans to see anything on the programme, except the big ones: Iain Banks’s guest of honour speech, and Doctor Who. Looking forward to that one a lot. And it’s going to be interesting watching it with a few hundred other people.

Speaking of guests of honour, the other one is Alastair Reynolds, and i’ve never read any of his stuff (well, maybe a short story or two). So I thought I should do some homework. I’ve been meaning to check him out for a while anyway.

I’ve started Revelation Space, but I’m having a hard time getting into it. It’s just a bit slow to get going. I hope it’ll pick up soon.


On Monday I took my son to the Barbican to see The Magnetic Fields. It was his first proper gig. And an experience quite unlike most gigs I’ve been to before.

For a start it was entirely seated, and I’ve not been to one of those in a long time - and not just the audience, the band too. Secondly, it was in the Barbican Centre. We’ve been there a few times in the last few months for classical concerts and a dance performance, but it’s a strange venue for rock ‘n’ roll.

But then, rock ‘n’ roll isn’t exactly what The Magnetic Fields play.

Their 69 Love Songs is, as I was tweeting recently, one of the finest albums ever. It’s from 1999, it turns out, but I’ve only known it for a year or two. The first half of Monday’s show contained a good number of songs from it, and also some from the recent Distortion.

The highlight for my boy wasn’t even a Magnetic Fields song at all, but rather one by The Gothic Archies, one of their several alter egos. It also featured the only instance in the evening of singing along with the band; and that was just him, quietly singing ‘Shipwrecked’.

We were right up at the back of the balcony, but despite the distance and low volume, we could still hear everything perfectly. Well, except when they spoke between songs. The vocal mix wasn’t really designed for making that kind of thing audible at the back.

In fact Merritt’s vocals were at their best during the final song, when he took the mike off the stand and walked about. That got him closer to the mike, which suits his croonerish voice.

So they sent us off into the night with a fabulous ‘Papa was a Rodeo’.

Next-Door to a Sequel

Last night I finished Living Next-Door to the God of Love, by Justina Robson. I enjoyed much of it, but found it kind of frustrating and annoying, in ways that were hard to define. The main one, though, was that some things were insufficiently explained.

Now, as SF readers we are used to jumping into new worlds, not quite knowing what’s going on, and picking it up as we go along. Indeed, that’s part of the toolkit for reading it (SF reading protocols at

But here, there was something just not quite right, I felt. It was as if there was too much understanding assumed. Had the writer spent too long with her world, I wondered? So long that she could no longer tell what the reader would and wouldn’t know, since she knew it so intimately?

When I finished it I went looking for reviews, to see whether others had the same feeling as me. And what I found proved that, in a sense, I was right about her assuming too much knowledge.

It turns out the book is a sequel.

Oh yes. It’s the sequel to her previous book, Natural History.

Which is fine. But nowhere on the book itself does it tell you that. Nowhere. I’ve checked again and again: it’s not in the blurb, it’s not on the title page, it’s not in the front matter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have liked to have known this little detail before I started reading. Sure, you can pick things up as you go along; and now that I know it, I realise that she gave us the necessary backstory very well. But really, Pan MacMillan: next time, let us know, OK?