The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Not Andrew Motion, but William Wordsworth:
If the labours of men of Science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the Poet will sleep then no more than at present, but he will be ready to follow the steps of the Man of Science, not only in those general indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation into the midst of the objects of the Science itself.
A quote I'd never come across before, in Andrew Rutherford's preface to the Oxford World's Classics edition of Kim. The context is praise of Kipling as a "bard of engineering and technology". Not how we usually think of him, but Rutherford cites the poem 'McAndrew's Hymn' and the stories 'The Ship that Found Herself' and 'Bread upon the Waters' "in which he shows imaginative sympathy with the machines themselves as well as sympathy with the men who serve them".


A & C Black have recently published 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels in their Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide series. I took time to have an extended flick through, and noticed that much of the SF Masterworks list is duplicated therein, but the summaries are considered and well-written, as is the potted history at the beginning, and the 'Reading On' suggestions are excellent. Also, Yvonne is thanked and acknowledged for an unspecified contribution.


Found out today that Spider Kiss, Harlan Ellison's 1961 rock 'n' roll novel, will be republished next month by Dark Horse Comics. When Ellison's good he's the best, and when he's not I admit he can be pretty dire, and I understand why some people can't stand him. Nevertheless, I remain a fan. I've read reviews, criticism, essays, reportage, stories and screenplays by him, but never a novel (there aren't many, and all of them early) so I'll be interested to see what it's like. Apparently Greil Marcus called it "the finest novel about the world of rock in the past quarter-century". As an aside, Kipling is also generally held to have been at his best in the short format, only producing one novel which was wholly successful - Kim.


While looking for a reference to Spider Kiss on the Dark Horse site, I came across this. Excellent news that the Chaykin/Mignola adaptations will be republished. I have the original set, discovered quite by accident (I'm not a big comics fan) when they were first published around 1991, and they are first-rate.

As regards "developing the property as a major motion picture"... un-huh. We'll see.


Finished Kim. Brilliant writing, strange novel. Clearly a great book, but not quite sure what to make of it, probably because it doesn't fit neatly into any category, and doesn't appear to make use of any boilerplate in the writing or structure at all. Going to read it again, definitely. Begun The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as a prelude to tackling Huck Finn. And at the end of Chapter 8 what do we find but Tom and Joe Harper, kitted out with makeshift swords, bows and hunting horns:
"Hold, my merry men! Keep hid till I blow."
Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and elaborately armed as Tom.
Tom called:
"Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest without my pass?"
"Guy of Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who art thou that--that--"
"Dares to hold such language," said Tom, prompting--for they talked "by the book," from memory.
"Who art thou that dares to hold such language?"
"I, indeed! I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff carcase soon shall know."
"Then art thou indeed that famous outlaw? Right gladly will I dispute with thee the passes of the merry wood. Have at thee!"
They took their lath swords, dumped their other traps on the ground, struck a fencing attitude, foot to foot, and began a grave, careful combat, "two up and two down." Presently Tom said:
"Now, if you've got the hang, go it lively!"
So they "went it lively," panting and perspiring with the work. By and by Tom shouted:
"Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"
"I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're getting the worst of it."
"Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't the way it is in the book. The book says, 'Then with one back-handed stroke he slew poor Guy of Guisborne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in the back."
There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe turned, received the whack and fell.
"Now," said Joe, getting up, "you got to let me kill YOU. That's fair."
"Why, I can't do that, it ain't in the book."
"Well, it's blamed mean--that's all."
"Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much the miller's son, and lam me with a quarter-staff; or I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and you be Robin Hood a little while and kill me."
This was satisfactory, and so these adventures were carried out. Then Tom became Robin Hood again, and was allowed by the treacherous nun to bleed his strength away through his neglected wound. And at last Joe, representing a whole tribe of weeping outlaws, dragged him sadly forth, gave his bow into his feeble hands, and Tom said, "Where this arrow falls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood tree." Then he shot the arrow and fell back and would have died, but he lit on a nettle and sprang up too gaily for a corpse.
The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.
Date of publication: 1876, and Twain says in his introduction that everything in the book, however tweaked, was common in boys' lives 40 years before. Similar games were being played in Scotland in 1980.

Idiots. Glad to see Joe having a go at them, too.

NB caitiff


At 20 October 2006 at 20:47 , Blogger Joe said...

Yeah, I added the Chaykin and Mignola to the FPI website the other week, was pleased to see it coming back. Next March it says, which in DH time means probably around June... They are also doing a second volume of Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor - assuming he doesn't fall out with them and start suing too like he has with Fantagraphics (not a move to enamour him to the comics community so something of an own goal with a new graphic novel collection coming out). Will need to check out the 100 SF list though.

At 26 October 2006 at 10:44 , Blogger Yvonne said...

The unspecified contribution was comments from myself and another female SF fan about how many female SF authors we'd expect to see in a top-100 list.

I said - given the proportion of famous female SF authors, and the baneful influence of Campbell on early SF - about 10-20%.

At 26 October 2006 at 18:27 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

Blimey, vol 2 must be about 10 years behind vol 1. He's also having a go at, oh, someone, over a set of Star Trek novels written around alternative outcomes for "The City on the Edge of Forever" without permission or acknowledgement. Not wise, and not legal either, according to H.E. I did glance, briefly and vaguely, at the Fantagraphics story but I'm afraid it all seemed rather arcane and beyond me.

100 Must-Read SF novels well worth a look, though must admit didn't count the number of female SF authors in there. Got a nice email from Stephen Andrews saying thanks for mentioning it. Didn't realise he was one of the editors, along with Ariel, of the old Bastardstone's SF&F guide.


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