Monthly Archives: January 2010

The new Apple iPad

January 28, 2010


I’m tempted to leave this post at that, just a single word. But if I’m honest there is more to this iPad thing than that. Fundamentally, Apple have gone to great lengths and enormous fanfare to release what is essentially a big iPhone without the phone or the camera. Sure, it’s a swish looking thing – Apple products always are. And the interface would be awesome, just like the iPhone, because Apple know how to meld man (or woman) and machine.

But is this iPad really anything spectacular? The thing that annoyed me the most watching a news program last night was the closing comments on the brief coverage of the iPad launch:

“The new iPad will allow people to read books electronically.”

They made this sound like it was a new thing. Like we’d never read an ebook before. Seriously, Apple are masters at convincing people that the emperor is wearing a fine ermine robe. I read ebooks regularly on my iPhone. The Kindle is going gangbusters in the US and has recently rolled out internationally. My books sell better in ebook formats than print formats by several orders of magnitude. And so on and so on.

So now, due to the massive media arse licking that Steve Jobs always seems to elicit, there will be thousands of people thinking that Apple has made ebooks a reality at last. Good grief, they’ll cry, are we living in the future? (Well, it is 2010, but still no flying fucking cars).

To be optimistic about it, regardless of how annoying it is, the iPad being touted as the new thing in publishing is good for writers. It’s not the new thing in publishing by a long way. We’ve been hammering out the pioneer trail through digital books and all associated stuff for several years now. But, Apple does attract its fanboys and fangirls. The latest Apple device is the must have gadget every time. The marketing behind it is terrifying.

When I heard that Stephen Fry had endorsed the iPad with talk of how great it was to use I felt the Earth shift on its axis. When Fry, the God-Emperor of Twitter, and Jobs, the Witch-King of Technology, combine forces, the future of humanity is theirs to toy with.

Steve Jobs, mind-controlling the masses

But, this can only be a good thing. Publishing is going digital. It’s a simple as that. You might remember this post I made back in August. It’s just a matter of how it will happen. Print books will still exist – Print On Demand technology will be the new vanguard of print – and speciality editions will still be popular with bibliophiles like me. It’s just a case of what becomes the standard for digital publishing.

The Kindle and its e-ink brethren tried to lead the way taking electronic reading from a computer screen to a hand held electronic book. As similar as possible to paper in every way. Then handheld devices like the iPhone shattered the calm of the library.

Sure, a Kindle is a great ebook reader, but an iPhone is a great ebook reader, and a phone and, most importantly, a web portal. The iPad has taken that concept and made it bigger. Too big, in my opinion, but we’ll see if new physical sizes emerge – remember the iPod gave birth to the iPod Nano. I’d like to see an iPad Nano, halfway in size between an iPhone and the current iPad.

Anyway, the point is this. The iPad has full internet activity and a brilliant user interface. You can go straight to your news media source, read the top stories, click on a picture to see the video, listen to the latest single from Current Pop Sensation And The Plagiarists and so on. It’s an interactive media source along with being an ebook reader. That’s where the allure lies. Remember the post I linked above where I talked about convergence. That’s what is needed.

For me the iPhone offers that convergence and the iPad is just an iPhone that won’t fit in my pocket. And it doesn’t have a phone or a camera. And, true to Apple form, there’s no USB connectivity, no expandable memory card ports, no access to the workings of it and a truly shite battery life. But it’s the latest thing from Apple, it’s slick and you feel all Star Trek when you use it. People will buy it. When they do, due to very clever and aggressive action from Apple with regard to getting publishers on side, they’ll suddenly see ebooks as the future. Not because ebooks are the future, not because we’ve been saying that and making them the future for the last few years, but because Steve Jobs said so. All hail the Techno Messiah. It’s a little bit sickening, but what the fuck. More people will be buying ebooks. For writers, embracing the digital publishing revolution, that’s no bad thing. It’s also going to shake up the podcasting and vodcasting world, so watch out for explosions on that front as well.

I won’t be getting an iPad. Not least because it sounds like an electronic monthly item for women, but mainly because it doesn’t really offer anything new yet. It just offers what’s already there in a bigger format. But it won’t be long before the iPad and competitive examples are as ubiquitous as the iPod. Think back to 1995 and going to buy the latest album on CD. Could you imagine having your entire music collection in digital form on something smaller than a pack of gum in your pocket back then? Now it’s the norm. It won’t be long before commuter trains are filled with people holding flat shiny screens, flicking their finger across them now and then to ellicit an electronic swoosh as they turn the “page”. And that’s only the beginning.


“Trial Not Required” in M-Brane SF #13

January 28, 2010

My short story “Trial Not Required” has just been published in M-Brane SF magazine. It’s in issue 13 and starts on page 13, which is kinda cool. The PDF edition of the mag is out now and the print edition should be available in the next couple of days.

The publisher, Chris Fletcher, asked for a little afterword about the story to include in the issue. This is what wrote:

“Trial Not Required” is a story born of a single absurd concept that occurred to me one night – wouldn’t it be strange if there was a big artificial ape that was once cutting edge technology but was now old-fashioned and a bit of a freak. And what if that ape started to question its role and the role of those that made it…?

You can find out all about it here. I hope you like it.


Blade Runner spawns a web series

January 26, 2010

The greatest movie of all time is Blade Runner. I’ve said it before and nothing yet has changed my mind. No, not even Avatar, which today toppled Titanic as the biggest grossing movie ever. I’m so pleased that a sci-fi movie has replaced Titanic in that spot.

Anyway, back to Blade Runner. The film’s director, Ridley Scott, has announced that there’s a new division of his commercials company (RSA Films) working on a web series called “Purefold”. The series will be a bunch of linked 5 to 10 minute short films, initially targeted at the web under a Creative Commons licence.

Given that the movie took its inspiration from the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep, and given that Scott and co. don’t have rights to that book, they can’t actually make a Blade Runner series. The episodes are set prior to the 2019 date of the movie and will be “inspired by Blade Runner.”

Says David Bausola, founding partner of Ag8, the independent studio working with Scott, “We don’t take any of the canon or copyrighted assets from the movie. It’s actually based on the same themes as Blade Runner. It’s the search for what it means to be human and understanding the notion of empathy.”

I can’t help thinking that they’re pretty much using the Blade Runner name to get attention for a near future series that doesn’t really have much of anything to do with the movie or Dick’s book. The use of the Creative Commons licence is interesting though, giving fans the chance to remix and redistribute the films, making the whole concept a very public domain exercise. Scott and co. are also planning to use viewer input on storylines, using the FriendFeed website.

Sounds like an interesting concept, worth keeping an eye on.

(Sources: Dogmatic, New York Times.)


No censorship in Australia

January 26, 2010

Go and read Kay Smoljak’s piece about ISP filtering, game ratings and so on. It’s a good read. Get behind her ideas and let’s try to stop censorship in this country.

Read it here.


Aurealis Award winners 2009

January 23, 2010

The Award ceremony happened in Brisbane last night. I was very sad not to be able to get up there for it, but finances are only so elastic. I was greatly heartened, however, to discover a great little Twitter party happening as the Awards were announced. I got to vicariously enjoy the ceremony by tweeting with people like Margo Lanagan, Felicity Dowker, Tansy Rayner Roberts others while the results were tweeted live by several people in attendance, including Donna Hanson, who was generally the quickest on the keypad. Enjoying a few beers and watching the results live in such great virtual company almost made up for not being there. Almost.

So, to the results. Here they are:

best science fiction novel
Andrew McGahan, Wonders of a Godless World, Allen & Unwin

best science fiction short story
Peter M. Ball, ‘Clockwork, Patchwork and Ravens’, Apex Magazine May 2009

best fantasy novel
Trudi Canavan, Magician’s Apprentice, Orbit

best fantasy short story – Joint winners
Christopher Green, ‘Father’s Kill’, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #24
Ian McHugh, ‘Once a Month, On a Sunday’, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #40, Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative Ltd

best horror novel
Honey Brown, Red Queen, Penguin Australia

best horror short story – Joint winners
Paul Haines, ‘Wives’, X6, Coeur de Lion Publishing
Paul Haines, ‘Slice of Life – A Spot of Liver’, Slice of Life, The Mayne Press

best anthology
Jonathan Strahan (editor), Eclipse 3, Night Shade Books

best collection
Greg Egan, Oceanic, Gollancz

best illustated book/graphic novel
Nathan Jurevicius, Scarygirl, Allen & Unwin

best young adult novel
Scott Westerfeld, Leviathan Trilogy: Book One, Penguin

best young adult short story
Cat Sparks, ‘Seventeen’, Masques, CSFG

best children’s (8-12 years) novel
Gabrielle Wang, A Ghost in My Suitcase, Puffin Books

best children’s (8-12 years) short fiction/illustrated work/picture book
Pamela Freeman (author), Kim Gamble (illustrator), Victor’s Challenge, Walker Books Australia

Regular readers here will know that I’ve been crapping on for months about the awesomeness of Paul Haines’ ‘Wives’. A well deserved winner. Shame he had to share the prize with himself, but there you go.

Congratulations to all the winners!


Scientology Quote of The Week

January 22, 2010

It’s been a while since I posted a quote of the week. However, sitting there this morning, reading the Sydney Morning Herald while enjoying my wife’s wonderful poached eggs, I did laugh when I read this one. (By the way, I wasn’t eating my wife’s breakfast. I was eating the eggs she so kindly made for me. She was enjoying her own breakfast. Aaaaanyway.)

Here in Australia, Senator Nick Xenophon is calling for an inquiry into the tax-exempt status of the Church of Scientology. He claims that it’s not a religious organisation but a criminal one. (At the very least it’s a very dangerous cult.) You can read plenty about the whole Xenophon thing in various places online.

In support of Xenophon’s campaign, Gerry Armstrong, a leading critic of Scientology, is coming to Australia. Armstrong is a guy that was a Scientologist and decided to write a biography of L Ron Hubbarb (the Founder of Scientology) to put to bed all the lies and misrepresentations about the science ficiton writer that once claimed the true path to wealth was through starting a religion.

Not surprisingly, when Armstrong began investigating all these “lies” to refute them, he found the opposite to be true. Armstrong says:

”There was all this material about him that had been discovered and I thought getting a biography published would be a a way of taking care of all the black propaganda, rumours and lies that had been published about him.

”Of course I discovered that the lies that I was trying to debunk were actually the truth and that Hubbard had lied to me and to all of us Scientologists and to the whole world.

”His whole history was a lie. His education, his military record, the antecedence of Scientology, his inveiglement in the occult prior to his creation of Scientology, his family, his daughter, his wife, his expeditions.

”He claimed to be a nuclear physicist – that had a lot of significance to me. The truth was that he flunked the one course in molecular phenomena. He never made it out of second year university. He was not a physicist, he was not a civil engineer, he was not a doctor, and he claimed to be all these things.”

He tried to have the church correct its records and the church in turn sued him. They lost the case with the judge deciding:

”The organisation clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements.

”The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile.”

And then we come to the bit that really made me chuckle. In defence of all this Armstrong business, the church brushes it off claiming that Armstrong is a “disgruntled apostate.”

You think? It’s not like he was disgruntled and made up lies. He discovered all the lies and became disgruntled. There’s a fairly significant difference there.

Anyway, I’d like to see the Church of Scientology investigated for its tax-exempt status, but I won’t hold my breath. It would pave the way for all the other cults (like Islam, Catholicism and so on) to be investigated for their tax-exempt status.

While we’re on the subject. Well, I am anyway, I’d be surprised if anyone else is still reading. I have a plan for a better, fairer relationship with religions. Instead of automatically giving them tax exempt status, which is grossly unfair and anachronistic, have them pay tax and fill in a tax return like every other person and business. Then they can claim all their charitable acts back, same as any other person or business. It’s bollocks to consider their very existence and everything they do as charitable.

Just some food for thought.

For a good round up on what Scientology is all about and how it operates, here’s a fairly short yet detailed article, also from the Sydney Morning Herald today.


A Little Killing at Pow Fast Flash Fiction

January 22, 2010

My nonsense yarn “A Little Killing” has been picked up by Pow Fast Flash Fiction. You may remember this story from a contest I entered a while ago. It took second place.

The contest was to write a piece of flash fiction (under 500 words) using three of the following words:

murder, mystery, fire, gates, cat, warlord, gold, dwarf, planet, ship

Just to be a smartarse I entered a whacky little tale using all ten words. Now Karen over at Pow has picked up the story for her new flash fiction site. You can find it here.


Jay Lake’s larval stages of the writer

January 21, 2010

The wonderful Cat Sparks drew my attention to this one. Bloody funny. Mostly funny because it’s so bloody true! And naturally, you could replace the word “American” with any other nationality. In fact, you could just take the word “American” out altogether.

The larval stages of the common American speculative fiction writer

I have long observed that the common American speculative fiction writer (Scriptor americanus s.f.) goes through a number of stages during larval development, prior to emerging from their paper chrysalis as a full-fledged author. Drawing largely from my own experiences, as well as keen observation of the flocks and herds of writers who routinely migrate through Nuevo Rancho Lake, I hereby propose an initial atlas of these stages, with modest comments.

Additions, corrections, observations and footnotes are, as always, welcomed.

I could do better than this. A monkey could do better than this.

After re-reading volumes I through XVII of A Game of Throne-Captains of the Mystical Vagina of Time, the writer will exclaim, “I could do better than this! A monkey could do better than this!” Many amazing careers have been launched from this moment. It should be honored, much like any moment of conception, possibly by bunking out for a wet wipe and a smoke afterward.

This is harder than it looks. Kind of like last night’s sausage.

The writer often first imitates the text that first brought their pen to page, or fingers to keyboard, or crayon to butcher paper. Sometimes development at this point diverges into Fanfic americanus s.f, sometimes it results in efforts at novel creation, as well as the creation of novels. With luck, the writer soon learns that verb agreement matters, as does POV. Otherwise they become a romance author.

Hey, I get it! I get it!

The writer creates fiction that a close friend or family member actually likes. The first surge of confidence emerges. Possibly they seek out a workshop, or attend a convention for the first time as a would-be pro rather than a fan. They are proud and happy. The writer should cherish this moment, for they are in for a world of hurt to come.

Read the rest at Jay’s LiveJournal.


Horror photographer Joshua Hoffine

January 21, 2010

Can you believe there’s such a thing as a horror photographer? I had no idea, but this guy is simply awesome. Not only does he make horror into a photographic artwork, he does it all for real. Well, not actually real, but with sets, special effect make-up and so on. Like this:

“Lady Bathory” by Joshua Hoffine

He shot the blood separately and shopped it in post, but even that was shot on set.

How about this one:

“Baby Sitter” by Joshua Hoffine

All the people in his shoots are family and friends working for free. That baby sitter is his eldest daughter and the baby is his niece. Somehow that just makes it cooler. This guy is my new hero.

Check out lots more at his website here.

Hat tip to the effervescent Felicity Dowker, who originally blogged about this.


I share this fear and reverence

January 19, 2010

As the alt-text for this cartoon says:

“That card holds a refrigerator carton’s worth of floppy discs, and a soda can full of those cards could hold the entire iTunes store’s music library. Mmmm.”

I share that fear and reverence. It’s amazing that so much can be held in such a tiny space. Everything I’ve ever written could be stored on the tiniest MicroSD card with loads of room to spare. *shudder*

Original strip here, at the ever brilliant



The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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