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Messages - Paul Campbell

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BFS Publications / Re: BFS Journal -- Winter 2012/13 issue
« on: March 20, 2013, 08:42:15 am »
Well, still nothing  :( Filed a claim this morning with PayPal and this is what I said:

Hi guys, I haven’t received any publications from the Society since last summer and as I’ve now reached the limit in which I can file a claim with PayPal I’ve had no choice but to do so. I’ve emailed the Journal Editor and the Stockholder. No reply. Posted 3 times on the forum where the Awards Administrator suggested I contact the Secretary and the Chair. The Chair replied immediately saying they’d make sure a copy got to me. Still nothing has arrived. Was told I didn’t receive the latest copy of the Journal because my membership was expired, but that makes no sense: I was reminded in January via email that my membership was due to expire at the end of February, so when the mailing list went to the printers at the end of January I should have still been on it. More importantly, though, the Society emailed everyone last September saying that because there was no publication that quarter they were going to extend everyone’s membership to include the next publication. The Winter 2012/2013 edition of the BFS Journal is that next publication, meaning I have already paid for it with my previous membership fee. So even if I had decided that this year I wasn’t going to renew my membership I should still have received a copy of the latest edition of the Journal, otherwise extending my membership was an empty gesture as I never received anything during those extra 3 months. In other words, all I’ve gotten for my previous £35 is 3 issues of the Journal. The Journal’s nice, guys, but not worth £11.67 each.

BFS Publications / Re: BFS Journal -- Winter 2012/13 issue
« on: March 15, 2013, 04:42:45 pm »
He doesn't send them out himself, so, if you haven't already, be sure to let him know so he can chase it up for you.

No, I didn't imagine for a moment that he did... but, um, why tell the likes of myself and John Probert  here on the forum to contact Lee in the first place? And why, then, would Lee say he'd make sure a copy got to me if it's nothing to do with him? No, Steve: I've emailed four people plus three posts on the forum. I think that's more than enough. Come Wednesday I'm filing a claim. PayPal can deal with it.

BFS Publications / Re: BFS Journal -- Winter 2012/13 issue
« on: March 14, 2013, 04:29:38 pm »
Lee got back to me a week ago, saying he'd make sure I received a copy. But nothing's arrived so far  :( Time's running out: come Wednesday I'm going to have to file a PayPal claim as that will be the end of my 45 day limit.

BFS Publications / Re: BFS Journal -- Winter 2012/13 issue
« on: March 08, 2013, 09:27:51 am »
Renewed my membership 6 weeks ago; got an email thanking me for doing so, too.

BFS Publications / Re: BFS Journal -- Winter 2012/13 issue
« on: March 07, 2013, 07:01:49 am »
Still haven't received my copy yet  :( Emailed a few folk, but haven't got a reply (although, not sure who you're supposed to contact for non-delivery of publications). Member # 1700.

TV and Film / Re: And So It Ends: a look back at why Harry Potter matters
« on: December 14, 2011, 08:56:55 am »
Have to admit I've avoided reading this properly, not having read the last book yet and wishing to avoid spoilers, but just noticed the amazing response this review has received on Amazon - 481 helpful votes! "By far the best review I've read on Amazon"! Nice one, Paul.

The post on Amazon US has almost 3 times as many hits - and 103 comments! LOL!!

(Scroll half-way down the page)

General Discussion / Re: The trouble with reading...
« on: November 08, 2011, 07:17:14 am »
Gosh, this is an old thread!  :D

Well, since then a lot has changed - in fact I now get through twice as many books as I used to. How? Ironically, thanks to work: I don't do sports, so in order to keep fit for the past year I've been walking to and from work, every shift. An hour there, an hour back. That's 40 hours a month 'dead' time. Only it isn't dead time at all, because I listen to audio books. Fantastic way to catch up on your reading pile! Highlights this year include His Dark Materials trilogy, A Game of Thrones, The Interpretation of Murder, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, The Year of the Flood, children's books by Frances Hardinge, Julia Golding and -

- well, just an absolute ton of audio stuff! Curiously, all of them novels, apart from Kazuo Ishiguro's Nocturnes, a 5 novelette collection, each read by a different narrator. Still reading physical books, too, at home and during my lunch break at work: right now Michael Moorcock's The Dancers at the End of Time and J.G. Ballard: The Complete Short Stories, which is 1200 pages (currently two thirds of the way through it). And just last month I went on a triple-Jones anthology binge - Best New Horror 22, Haunts and A Book of Horrors - 1500 pages in total! Incidentally, for the curious my reviews of all three can be found here:

British Fantasy Awards / Re: The British Fantasy Awards Survey.
« on: October 25, 2011, 08:03:09 pm »
All completed...interesting questions. Will be equally interesting to see what comes out of it.

Hmm, I don't know so much Andrew; the questions are worded - and sequenced - in such a way that going to a jury system is already presupposed. Don't get me wrong, I think that is the way to go, but there's really nothing in the survey which concretely addresses the issue of the imbalance of horror over fantasy. Indeed, the only solution the survey seems to offer to this problem is by going to a jury system.

Mind you, if they mean an imbalance towards high-fantasy then I could care less: the best genre fiction out there is cross-genre, where writers just cut loose and write whatever the damn hell they want (i.e. Tim Powers, China Mieville, Dan Simmons). Tolkien-esque fantasy really has been done to death – and truthfully, how are you supposed to award the damn stuff? What, based on instalments?! “And the award for the best middle volume of a 10 book trilogy goes to...” As most fantasy books are part of a series, how on earth are you supposed to make a judgement on the story’s worth when the story might not end for another decade and several volumes later?

Think I’ve just stick too horror and science fiction...

If the survey contains such questions as, "What do you read most of, Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?" I hope it also contains the question, "What do you read most of, books released by Professional Publishers or the Small Press?" Because that - as I said on another thread - I believe is the root cause of this whole awards fiasco: too many society members with far too narrow a range of reading interests. It's like literary snobs declaring that the likes of King and Rowling must be mediocre writers because they sell too many copies. In other words the logic probably runs: "If it's published outside the small press it must be watered-down dreck and therefore beneath my contempt."

Yeah, right.

Having been a past Prism small press reviewer, this is one reader who certainly doesn't belief that the sun shines out the small press's proverbial rearend.

British Fantasy Awards / Re: Official BFS Statement Concerning Awards.
« on: October 10, 2011, 06:48:18 pm »
Deeply saddened by all this; as I said on the BFS Awards thread, David is one of the most genuine human beings I've ever met - the only thing he's gulity of in this whole debacle is being naive in thinking a kerfuffle wouldn't have arisen. But, hey, being naive is often a 'character flaw' of nice people. Great world we live in when nice people get crucified, innit?

J Naylor said:

Of course the fact that most of the voters won't have read all of the works up for the award means that they will inevitably end up voting for their favourites.

The inherent problem with awards is that it assumes the only books in our To Be Read Pile are titles published in the past year. I read very few books during the year that they’re actually published, due to playing catch-up on books published in preceding years. I didn’t vote on this year’s nominations because I’d read so few in any given category that I didn’t feel I could make an balanced judgement.

However, most folk have no such qualms and blithely vote for the one book they’ve read, or a book they haven’t read but by someone whose work they’ve enjoyed in the past.

Emma Jane Davis said:

As for cronyism, this is an inherent part of the way the current awards system works. People vote for their favourite book/person instead of the best book. That is no different to any other year. I wonder how many BFS members who voted have ever actually read all five books?

Now, I don’t know David and Sam very well, but I will say this: they’re amongst the two most genuine human beings I’ve ever met. Ironically that’s the problem! People are lazy, let’s just acknowledge that, so when it comes to voting if they haven’t read any of the nominations they either vote for someone they’ve read in the past or someone they’ve met in person and really like. “Oh, Sam and David are really lovely, I’ll vote for them.”

- But that’s not Sam and David’s fault! And certainly they shouldn’t feel guilty for being nice people. The laziness of the voters is not something they should be vilified for. Finally, I honestly do not believe that Sam or David knowingly canvassed for votes, other than what every single other writer does: ‘Hi guys, just to let you know I’m up for an award.’

However, it’s all about perception: within our little community (and let’s face it, it is very small – 369 members according to figures released at this year’s AGM) we all know that Sam and David are the real genuine deal. To outsiders, like The Guardian, they don’t know that. So when five awards are associated with just two people paranoid outsiders automatically throw up a red flag and say, ‘Hang on a minute...’

This, I guess, was inevitably a train wreck waiting to happen: a lazy membership that has read too few of the nominations deciding to cast their vote instead on the basis of the warm personality of two people they’ve either met or simply saw talking during panels at previous conventions. A good number of people who did vote would have read those books, yes, but there is no denying that the majority simply cast their vote based on David and Sam outgoing, friendly natures. Again, that’s not their fault!

I do, though, fail to see how changing the awards to counteract the laziness of the membership is feasible.

One final point regarding this whole bizarre notion of not giving awards to people you know aren’t going to turn up to receive them. So Stephen King didn’t deserve to win this year? You know, I’m thoroughly sick and tired of this whole King-bashing simply because the man’s a huge success. I read a huge number of short story collections in any given year, and I for one was delighted King’s novella collection “Full Dark, No Stars” won the award this year because that book totally blew me out of the water. Ditto his recent novel “Lisey’s Story”. If you haven’t read King since the 1980s then frankly – and I say this with the utmost sincerity and politeness – shut up.

That King issue does, though, highlight the fact that whenever titles released by professional publishers do turn up on the shortlist they stand out like a sore thumb, due to the fact that the vast amount of other titles are all small press. There’s far too much fawning over the small press, frankly: yes, so and so’s book is good, but only in the context of the small press. Do you get what I’m saying here? There is a scary proportion of our membership that does not read outside the small press, let alone outside a given genre.

Perhaps we should rename it The British Small Press Fantasy Awards? ;D

TV and Film / And So It Ends: a look back at why Harry Potter matters
« on: July 16, 2011, 11:00:51 am »
When all is said and done – when the eye candy special effects of Quidditch matches and fantastical creatures has been superseded by advances in technology in Hollywood blockbusters yet to come – it is the little moments that this viewer and his wife will return to.

When a friend one time bemoaned the fact that ‘Half-Blood Prince’ gets bogged down in pointless hormonal teen-angst instead of getting on with the story, I smiled... and shook my head.

No, I said, that IS the story and it’s what I love about the Harry Potter series: it never loses track of the characters. It never forgets that, when viewed as a whole, these eight movies are a story of growing up, of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Of love and friendship and death. Because without those little funny and touching moments between the characters – if all you want is for the movies to rush from one plot element to another – then all you’re left with is plot... and no story. Remember: plot is what happens TO the characters; story is what happens AS A RESULT of the characters.

That’s the real gorgeous beauty of these movies, and it’s what will bring viewers back repeatedly to their DVD shelves. As Frodo said to Sam in ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’: “What are we fighting for Sam?” “That’s there’s still some good in this world,” Sam replies, “and that it’s worth fighting for.”

That’s why you need those little indulgent moments, because without them it’s just razzle-dazzle special effects and set-pieces. Harry and Ginny’s first kiss: they’re in the Room of Requirement and Ginny tells Harry to close his eyes while she hides Professor Snape’s copy of Advanced Potion Making. And before Harry opens his eyes Ginny leans forward, kisses him and whispers, “That can stay hidden up here too, if you like.” That, my fellow Muggles, is pure movie gold. That’s what the characters are fighting for. Love. Yes, the PLOT concerns itself with good triumphing over evil, but that only comes to pass as a result of the STORY which is about friendship. Because that is something worth fighting for.

It’s why the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s astonishing trilogy, ‘His Dark Materials’, is an utter failure: ‘The Golden Compass’ movie rushes from one plot element to another: and THEN we go here, and THEN we go there. Never slowing down to allow the characters TO BE characters. What are they fighting for? Well, nothing the viewer could care less about...

Ultimately, all of this success comes about because of the brilliant way in which the author J.K. Rowling has constructed her seven-volume storyline. See, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ are good – very good – but in the end don’t quite fully succeed, and this is because the author, C.S. Lewis, had never envisioned them as a series: ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ was originally intended by the writer to be a one off. As thoroughly enjoyable as the three Narnia movies are, there is no through-story like Rowling’s Harry-Voldermort. Indeed, over the course of the three Narnia movies even some of the Pevensie children themselves become side characters. And although that was entirely the point – part of the plot – in the end it harms the story. It dilutes what the characters are fighting for. It weakens its forcus.

Look at the Harry Potter series: viewed in hindsight it’s not just the story of teenage friendships, for it also presents an astounding portrayal of one man coming to be viewed in the end entirely differently by the viewer. Professor Snape. What an astonishing character arc – and yet Rowling had it all there, right from the beginning: Snape using a counter-curse against Professor Quirrell to save Harry during the first movie’s Quidditch match. Wait, isn’t Snape the bad guy?! We’re made to wonder, right from that first movie all the way through to the revelations of the eighth. ‘Narnia’ has nothing on that. It’s clear that Rowling has thought her seven-volume story through like a military operation: the first four books may have come out only a year apart, but the author had begun planning them seven years before the first one was ever published.

And the friendships, that’s all there too. Look at the Ron-Hermione moments seeded throughout the entire movie series. Harry and Hermione are just good friends, thus all the unself-conscious hugs she gives him. Yet there is a physical tension – a conscious awareness of each other – between her and Ron. At the end of ‘Chamber of Secrets’ Hermione flings her arms around Harry... but, both of them equally awkward and embarrassed, Ron and Hermione only shake hands. In ‘Prisoner of Askaban’ during Hagrid’s first lesson with Harry cautiously approaching Buckbeak, Herminone grabs Ron’s hand, before quickly letting go, both of them looking around uncomfortably. All, finally, converging in Hermione’s emotional outburst at the end of the Yule Ball in ‘Goblet of Fire’ where (like a soul crying out ‘Look at me!’) she says, “Next time there’s a Ball, pluck up the courage to ask me before somebody else does – and not as a last resort!” And in another moment of movie gold, Harry and Hermione comforting each other on the steps in Hogwarts, unable to be with the one they want. “How does it feel, Harry, when you see Dean with Ginny?” After Hermione sends her bird charms crashing into the wall beside Ron and Ron flees, Harry replies, “It feels like this.”

It’s why ‘Half-Blood Prince’ is one of my favourite instalments: not only is it the calm before the storm of the seventh and eighth movies but it allows the characters’ friendships to come to fruition. ‘Half-Blood Prince’ does not become sidetracked, far from it. You need that, because that is the story. It’s what I love about it: yes, they’re wizards and witches but the film makers never lose sight of the fact that they’re also young adults going through the most important transitional period of their lives. These movies aren’t about fantastical magical events inconveniently interrupted by mushy teenage moments. Instead they’re precisely all about those ordinary, everyday teenage moments, played against the backdrop of incredible events. Those amazing events only occur at all because of who the characters are; it’s only natural that the plot should play second to the story of their lives. Because they are what truly matters. Because they, as Sam would put it, “Are worth fighting for.”

As if that wasn’t enough, as if the story of Harry-Ron-Hermione (and, indeed, Snape) isn’t in itself reason enough to revisit this whole series, Rowling has also given us an amazing supporting cast of characters. All too often in a series, all the characters outwith the main group rarely hold a reader’s/viewer’s attention for long. And yet Rowling has created not one single boring character, and what an amazing supporting cast they are: the Dursley, the Weasleys, the Malfoys, Hagrid, Dobby, Sirius, Bellatrix, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and on and on. In fact, one of Rowling’s most inspired moves, and certainly a wonderful way of keeping things fresh, was to continuously have a new colourful character each year as the Professor of the Dark Arts. Glideroy Lockhart, Remus Lupin, Mad-Eye Moody, Dolores Umbridge. Not to forget the delightful potions master from ‘Half-Blood Prince’, Horace Slughorn, or the Professor of Divination, Trelawney. Then, too, you have the caretaker Argus Filch, the ghost Nearly Headless Nick. Well, you get the idea. Quidditch, the Ministry of Magic, the Dementors. The richness of the world Rowling has created is so rewarding that I can’t ever imagine tiring of it.

Watching these characters – and, indeed, the actors – grow up before us is fascinating. I love the fact the first two movies are kids movies; there’s no hint, really, of what lies ahead. Until, of course, you get to ‘Prisoner of Askaban’. Even the naysayer film critics sat up at that one and said, “Hey, hold on a minute...” From the fifth film onwards these were no longer merely kids’ movies. It’s what accounts for their immensely broad appeal: children will watch them for the action and special effects, teenagers and adults for the humour and the series’ growing depth. Even the opening titles change as the story darkens: from bright gold in the first few movies to chipped and crumbling grey stone.

Viewed as one 1100+ minute über-movie the achievement is nothing short of remarkable.

Books / Re: What are you currently reading..?
« on: June 02, 2011, 11:59:31 am »
I'm sure that I'm not the only one who has more than one book on the go; usually a novel and a volume of short stories. However, it is unusual for me to have THREE novels on the go:

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning The Sparrow (1996) by Mary Doria Russell. A beautifully characterized work, by turns funny and tragic. A fresh examination of the question, if there's no God then what does it all mean? This is a library copy, so I read it at work and in the pub and such as it didn't matter if it got a little grubby.

A Game of Thrones (1996) by George R. R. Martin. Wonderful intrigue, grimy and realistic. Nearing the end of listening to the unabridged 33 hour audio edition, whilst travelling to and from work. Currently saving up the HBO adaptation on our Sky box so Audrey and I can watch it all later.

On Stranger Tides (1988) by Tim Powers. Reading this only at home as it's a first edition and don't want to get it damaged. Recently reissued in paperback. Been a good season for reissues, what with Anno Dracula by Kim Newman and Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter.

Books / REISSUE Kim Newman's Anno Dracula
« on: May 07, 2011, 01:25:02 pm »
I'm sure Pete's flagged this up already on  the BFS's news page, but for those who missed it -

- here's the amazon link:

I've got quite a few of Newman's books but, alas, I missed out on this when it first appeared almost 20 years ago (and if has now been out of print for the past 17). Despite living in the Glasgow/Edinburgh area, I've never in all those years came across a secondhand copy - and even the paperback goes for a pretty sum on eBay.

Well, thanks to the good folks at Titan Books it’s now back in print, and not simply a reprint with a spanking new cover. Think of this as the DVD equivalent of a 20th Anniversary Special Edition, for it comes with 120 pages of bonus material: alternate scenes and endings, 16 pages of annotations, extracts from the author’s unproduced screenplay, essays and even a bonus short story. Also, the main text features minor corrections to the 1992 edition.

Titan will also reissue the other two novels in the sequence, together with the long-awaited fourth volume, Johnny Alucard.

Got my copy this morning, and I’m really chuffed to bites: glad, now, I didn’t fork out for an old copy off eBay or Abebooks – this new B-format edition is far superior.

Books / Covers for Stephen Jones's next two books...
« on: March 01, 2011, 09:04:46 pm »
In mid-September sees Jones's third project with Ulysses Press, following on from The Dead That Walk: Zombie Stories (2009) and Visitants: Stories of Fallen Angels & Heavenly Hosts (2010).

Titled Haunted: An Anthology of Modern Ghost Stories, here's the Amazon link (currently available at an even lower pre-order price from Book Depository):

And, of course, mid-October sees volume 22 of Best New Horror. I'm not sure if this is just a preliminary art work - or perhaps just the cover of the US edition - but certainly the credits at the bottom of the front cover are just a mock-up: Stephen King and his son Joe Hill did NOT do a collaboration last year (that was the year before). But, still, that cover sure is eye-catching...

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