Posts from 20th January 2009

Jan 09

SF Writers: Philip K. Dick

FT3 comments • 301 views

(The start of a parallel series to that recently started on crime writing. I’ll repeat something of what I said there: I mostly read literary fiction, so I’m mostly looking for the same kind of qualities I like there in SF. I know my science reasonably well, but I really don’t care whether the author does, or whether they use it much or at all.)

Dick’s a contender to be my favourite writer ever, the only one who has remained somewhere in there since my mid-teens. I found him mind-blowing then, and still do. Oddly, the closest comparison, for me, is with comic book great Jack Kirby: the two best examples of what I think of as the genius hack. Like Kirby, Dick was immensely productive, albeit for a far shorter time – for a while he was turning out four novels and lots of short stories a year. Their brilliance and concern for their own themes shines through even in many of their most routine works. In Dick’s case, these concerns centred around the nature of reality and humanity, the idea that the consensus was not reliable, not as simple as it seemed. I guess a man who lived for years next to Disneyland while taking tons of hallucinogenic drugs would end up with an interesting slant on reality.


Will Twitter Replace Pop Criticism?

FT5 comments • 634 views

Partly as a way of getting a ‘feel’ of what people (who aren’t necessarily social media wonks) use Twitter for, I’ve conducted a little experiment – I’ve put each of the Top 40 UK singles into a Twitter search engine and typed out the first substantive* tweet I found.

So here’s what the Twitterati think of current pop music:


My 10 Worst Films Of 2008: 4: Smart People

FT2 comments • 294 views

Feel for me. I saw Charlie Bartlett and Smart People not just in the same week, not just on the same day, but with a gap of about ten minutes between them. It was the dire double bill to end all dire double bills. And sorry Dennis Quaid, because you get two films in a row with this one. And I like Dennis Quaid. but then I like most of the actors in Smart People. Thomas Haden Church has had a good few years. Ditto little Ellen Page. I’ve never really cared for Sarah Jessica Parker but she doesn’t have DUD written all over her forehead the moment she walks into shot.

No, the problem with Smart People is encapsulated perfectly within its title. The plot is simple: Them Smart People – they ain’t so smart about real life stuff. Quaid plays a grouchy university English professor, Ellen Page his whip smart (for which read not speaking like a normal person) Republican daughter. Church is the black sheep of the family, the non-smart one. But hey, he may not be book smart but he went to the University Of Life*.