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Other women’s legs

ImageThis summer a terrible thing happened. My wife became friends with my Chinese teacher. They go shopping together in the mall. Serena has been trying to get my wife to wear the same tantalisingly short skirts and hot pants that she wears to my lessons. They talk about diets and Chinese parents and men. Men! Yes, and women, too. And women’s legs!

It used to be that my Chinese lessons consisted of me telling my teacher things about my wife and my teacher telling me things about her husband.

Then I would go home and tell my wife things about my teacher.

It worked well for a while and I suppose I should be glad that I’ve known at least some happiness in my life, however briefly. Now I try as much as possible to say nothing to either of them, although the talk at home is all of Serena.

The first pair of hot pants Lanying came home in were so short she couldn’t sit down. She had to take them back to the shop the next day and get a more comfortable pair. I told one of my colleagues about it. He shook his had sadly. “I can’t say anything,” he said, “that one of us won’t regret.”

Lanying talks every day about my Chinese teacher. Yesterday she told me something Serena’s husband had told her. “He likes looking at legs,” Serena told her. “He thinks there should be a law against women wearing long trousers.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard!” I said. “But that doesn’t mean he likes other men to look at Serena’s legs.”

“No, of course not. He likes looking at other women’s legs.”

“Not that Serena doesn’t have good legs,” I said diplomatically.

“Serena has great legs.”

“She does. But, you know, in general, a man doesn’t like the world to see his wife’s legs.”

“Exactly,” said Lanying, “no matter how good his wife’s legs may be. “

“Between a man and his wife, of course, it’s quite all right. But in public, it’s a different thing.”

“But I suppose a man gets bored of looking at the same legs all the time,” she said, “and needs fresh legs to look at.”

“Fresh legs. Indeed.” I’m always happy when I can agree with my wife.

“She is still very young,” Lanying said. “She wants to please him.”

“Yes. I’m sure that’s the reason she wears hot pants all the time.”

“But, really, I think her skirts are too short.”

“So you won’t be buying any short skirts?”

“Definitely not. I’m not a teenager any more.”

Once again I was able to agree. “I’m glad you understand men so well,” I told her. “You don’t try and please me, at least.”

“I dress only for myself,” she told me.

We were walking along the River Thames at the time and I noted that although winter was well under way, the day was exceptionally fine.

“It’s going to be cold on Thursday,” she said.

“Oh, that’s a pity. I suppose you shall have to put away your hot pants and get out your winter clothes.”

“You shall have to get out my winter clothes. The box is too heavy for me.”

“I will be only too glad,” I told her.

And I felt gladder than I’ve felt for a while. The warmth of the sun was very pleasant on my face and the rolling of the waves in the river made a beautiful sound that covered our words and seemed to promise a beautiful English autumn ahead, leading into an even more beautiful English winter.

eyeballs in the skyInterzone magazine has a regular section called Thog’s Masterclass, which all writers should read. It’s better than any book I’ve ever read on how to write. It simply quotes sentences from published works, which it classifies with scholarly care.

Here are a couple from Interzone 247 (Jul-Aug 2013).

Eyeballs in the Sky. ‘She still didn’t see the hot eyes running and melting all over her.’ (Whit Harrison [Harry Whittington], Any Woman He Wanted, 1961).

Eyeballs in the Sky (Surgical Division). ‘From under bushy brows peered eyes of a peculiar golden-green hue; a thousand phosphorus needles flickered there in high-frequency movement, as in a battery’s spark-gap, giving the pupils an expression of luminous penetration; these eyes literally cut into the body and examined its subject to the minutest fiber.’ (Stefan Grabinski, ‘On a Tangent’ [circa 1918] translated by Miroslaw Lipinski in On the Hill of Roses, 2012)

If ever a sentence needed the word ‘literally’ it was that one.

I really admire the editorial team at Interzone for regularly coming up with fresh examples of eyeballs-in-the-sky sentences from classic and modern texts. It’s a magazine of understated greatness. I appreciate it more than I can say.

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Red Sonja

Dynamite is one of my favourite publishers of comics. I buy a lot of their titles. I loved their take on Zorro and I’m still enjoying their Lone Ranger. The Shadow has had some brilliant moments and The Red Team got off to a good start. But not everything they do at Dynamite is good. In fact it’s best not to believe their hype.

They’ve been pumping up Red Sonja recently until she’s fit to burst. The new series is written by Gail Simone — “one of the premiere writers in the comics industry” — and they’ve been making a song and dance about it in all their other comics for months. But I am very disappointed. The writing isn’t bad. It’s average for the genre. But I really think Dynamite have let it down with a supporting team who are just not taking Sonja seriously.

The details in the pictures don’t support what is in the text. In episode 1, for example, we see Sonja pull a dagger from a sheath fastened to the small of her back. A nice move. And a lethal surprise for one of her assailants. But the sheath doesn’t exist in any other picture.

Then someone is sick on her boots so she gives her boots to her bodyguards to be washed. We see her taking the boots off, but in the next panel she’s still wearing the boots, while the bodyguards are holding them at arm’s length in the firelight.

Then there is her constantly changing dress at the state dinner.

And as for the spelling … well!

No-one expects a feisty, Hyrkanian barbarian to spend time with a dictionary but, Tarim’s blood, she has an editor, and she boasts of her “educated blade.” Sonja is no imbecile. But Dynamite have turned her into an imbecile with a capital I. Three capital I’s, actually, more’s the pity.

The visual power of words

Britt Reid - The Green Hornet

Britt Reid – The Green Hornet

Can you spot the spelling mistake in this panel from Dynamite’s Green Hornet?

It’s the first panel in episode 5 of a story by Mark Waid.

It’s a very confusing story. It’s one of the most intellectually challenging stories I’ve ever struggled through. I’m not sure who is who or what is what. Everything is turned on its head.

Britt Reid, The Green Hornet, is supposed to be out crushing criminals but he’s running for mayor instead. An innocent man is in hospital because of Britt’s arrogance and pride. Even Kato is confused.

But the picture in this panel is clear enough. Britt Reid has put himself on a pedestal. He’s blind to his own shortcomings. He’s turned his back on the paper he controls. He’s taken his eye off the ball and is concentrating only on his own ego.

It’s a shame he can’t spell infallible. Especially when everything in this panel crashes down with its full weight on that one, emboldened word.

I expected better of a newspaper mogul but, oh well, this is the 21st century. We shouldn’t expect moguls, writers, editors or artists to be able to spell.

This blog is now analogue

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I’ve become a bit overwhelmed by technology recently and gone analogue as much as possible. Of course, it’s not very possible.

One advantage of being analogue is that I had to search through my cards and games to find ways to amuse myself without a computer, which led me to my long lost Barbara Walker tarot deck. To celebrate, I thought I’d take a photo of some of the cards and post it here. Unfortunately my desk was a bit cluttered with an analogue game I’ve been playing and I couldn’t find a suitable place to lay them out. Well, actually, the tarot cards were mixed up with this game in the first place, which is why I couldn’t find them. So I thought, why not photograph them together?

As you can see, I’m not a very good photographer, which is why most of the pix and photos on this blog have been stolen from elsewhere.

The game, by the way, is called Legend of the Five Rings (or L5R in digital forums).

Even in the analogue world there is innovation fatigue and this game is an example of something that induces it. I stopped playing this game in 2007 because the publishers of the cards kept bringing out new sets. Every new set brought new things to learn and forced you to forget things that were no longer allowed. Every so often they would even change the backs of the cards so you couldn’t mix in some of your favourite old cards with the new ones. Bastards!

In spite of them, here is Hida Sukune and Mirumoto Taki mixed in with Baal and Kali.

Barbara Walker chose Baal for the King of Pentacles and Kali for the Queen of Swords. For some people this kind of mish-mash is sacrilege. But the tarot was never pure and probably never holy. It is constantly being reinvented, just like L5R, wordpress, word, and windows bloody 8.

It was windows bloody 8 that drove me towards analogue. But it was Barbara Walker who brought me back to digital. Perhaps there is a kind of poetry in that.

I thought I’d better say thank you to everyone who bought and read my novel, Winternights.

It surprised me by leaping to the upper rankings in both the US and the UK charts in the horror/occult genre.

It swiftly disappeared from the rankings after its dizzying ascent. This may have had something to do with the fact that it was only free for two days.

Whatever. I really enjoyed the thrill of international fame and acclaim while it lasted and I look forward to connecting with new readers in another year or so after I have written my next book.

Thanks once again. I love you all.

Some people are already complaining that I didn’t put a link in my last post to where you can download my book.

If you’re in the UK you can get it here: Winternights (UK version).

If you’re in the United States, you need to go here instead: Winternights on Amazon.com.

If you’re rich enough to be an Amazon Prime customer, the book is free to borrow at any time.

If you’ve a Kindle Fire HD device, you’ll benefit from the special hi-res cover image that cost my designer a huge amount of effort to get right. Her original design was not hi-res and she had to change it when Apple brought out their retina display. She wasn’t happy about it but what can you do? Technology is advancing faster than we can think these days.

(The low-res image is being used in this post.)

The book is not yet available in the Apple Store. It mangled my format somehow so I’ve withdrawn it from sale there until I can iron out a technical problem with the table of contents.

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