Sunday, 22 April 2012

Notes on my books

The books have been entered and the database tidied up. It is ninety nine percent done and there are 882 books. It has brought up a few questions too as there are some books I know I have but they aren't in the database because I haven't come across them to put them in.

The program connects to an online database and it - I'm thinking - is just a collection of the details entered by the users of the program: which would explain the wrong book covers on some books. I don't think there is an official database of all the books published, but I could be wrong.

I have 5 Sol Yurick books, a great writer. The Warriors is obviously his best in my opinion but he wrote some cracking short stories too.

There are also 5 John Wyndham paperbacks, all Penguin editions from the early to mid eighties. I was put off Wyndham by school but found The Web in particular to be a very good read. His short stories I found a little so-so but they were interesting.

There are a lot of Star Trek novels and a few Star Trek related books; including the making of the TV series where it is noted that the Romulans are the fierce warriors and the Klingons the sly ones: a total reverse of what came after. I bought a lot of the spin off novels during the nineties, mainly at second hand shops for pennies (and don't some of them show it; a couple are hanging together by threads) and read and enjoyed most of them. They were fun little romps but I stuck to the various TV series and didn't particularly enjoy the original book series that were not connected to the TV shows (I like DS9 above the other Star Trek series but will always have a soft spot for Kirk).

Also TV related are two Babylon 5 books, two Highlander books, three Buffy novelisations, three Angel novelisations and three X-files books.

There were a lot more A E Van Vogt books than I thought, and it's split roughly fifty-fifty between novels and short story collections. Again a lot of them look second hand.

My copy of Lord of The Rings dates back to paperbacks printed in 1981 and bought three or four years later. They were bought new and are well read, although I think it was the extra material after the books that I read more than once.

A nice paperback copy of Great Crime of Grapplewick by Eric Sykes, who I loved when I was growing up. Nice and well written but not laugh out loud funny.

There's quite a lot of nonfiction; most of it computer related.

Three books by John Sladek, New Apocrypha, Maps and Roderick at Random. I definitely bought Roderick but can't seem to find it. I do know that I read Roderick at Random, and enjoyed it so much I then went out and bought Roderick.

Half a dozen Clifford D Simak books but no City, which was his most memorable work for me.

Only 9 James Herbert books. I think I gave away or sold off the ones I bought in the eighties: most of them were bought new too.

Two books by Benford and Ecklund; If The Stars Are Gods and Find The Changeling. Paperbacks from 1979 and 1980. Both enjoyable reads with If The Stars Are Gods having some of the best aliens I've ever read about.

Four Harlan Ellison books, all short story collections. I enjoyed Web Of The City but didn't really get into his longer works. I think the short story is where Harlan rules supreme.

Only 3 Stainless Steel Rat books, two paperbacks and a hardback. Again they must have been given away or sold.

Only two Stephen King books. Something seriously wrong there as I was flipping through a paperback copy of The Stand a few months ago and also have short story collections from the eighties and nineties.

Three Peter Macey novels, Alien Culture (his best), Distant Relations and Stationary Orbit. A much under rated writer and a couple of book dealers – when I was searching for other books by him -  went Who? I doubt if there's anything on the net about him but he wrote three great SF books in my eyes.

Final top ten:

1  Bob Shaw, 52

2  Robert E Howard, 51

3  Philip K Dick, 36

4  Philip Jose Farmer, 28

5  Theodore Sturgeon, 25

6  Kenneth Robeson, 24

7  Robert A Heinlein, 14

    Robert Silverberg, 14

    Neal Asher, 14

10 A E Van Vogt, 13

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Top Ten

Almost there with inputting my book collection into the program Book Collector Pro. There are 709 books in the program now. There’s a pile of hardbacks to be entered and around about 50 books that will have to be entered by hand as they have no ISBN numbers – including to my surprise a double by Robert Silverberg; Those Who Watch/Thorns. It turns out I don’t have many Robert Silverberg books, which is really weird as I love Robert Silverberg and bought lots of his books during the eighties, but there are only 12 (plus the one to be entered, making a grand total of 13).

2012-04-21 13.46.28

I took a picture of a couple of books. Silverberg’s Stochastic Man, one of his very best in my opinion. The Mote in God’s Eye by Niven and Pournelle, my introduction to them which made sure I bought their other books. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury an edition from the early eighties and Taller Than Trees by John Gordon Davies, a mainstream novel which I thought was brilliant. I can still remember quite a bit of the book today.

Coincidentally only ten writers managed to reach double figures. I don’t think this will change much with about 100 or so books to be put into the database.

Bob Shaw still tops the chart but only just.

Bob Shaw; 52

Robert E Howard; 50

Philip K Dick; 35 (Less than I thought I had)

Philip Jose Farmer;  28

Kenneth Robeson; 24 (Would have been a lot more if I didn’t get rid of a lot of Doc Savages years ago)

Theodore Sturgeon; 22

Neal Asher; 14 (Pretty impressive considering I only discovered him about a year and a half ago.)

A.E. Van Vogt; 13

Robert Silverberg; 12 (I have no idea what happened to most of his books I had.)

Robert A Heinlein; 10

I also brought out a few books to stick atop my to be read pile, and hope to get around to re reading them in the near future.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Books Update

I'm cracking on with the input on my book collection into the program Book Collector 8 Pro. At the moment it's sitting at 400 books exactly, and 258 authors (although the program makes a separate entry for each author, even if they are only contributors to a collection). 

Robert Howard (50) is creeping up on Bob Shaw (52) and Philip Jose Farmer (13) is creeping up on Neal Asher (14). I'm also building up quite a pile of books that aren't in the online database, mostly older books with SBN numbers instead of ISBN numbers or no numbers at all.

As I have the Pro version I can change Field Names and have changed a couple so that I now have 'limited edition number' and 'signed' on the main page. There are still a lot of wrong covers getting downloaded but the main idea is to get all my books catalogued, and that is coming together via this program very quickly.

Monday, 16 April 2012


I haven't been blogging much lately due to family circumstances.

I haven't been reading too much either but have in fact have bought quite a few books. There was a special offer from PS Publishing where I got 8 hardbacks for £35 plus postage. A fine selection of books arrived, all but one signed and from limited editions and none of them massive door stops, so they should be quick easy reads from new (to me) authors.

I've also bought a fair few Robert E Howard books; mainly to read Howard as he intended his stories to be read. I first read him years ago in the Sphere paperbacks but these were (apparently) highly edited - or hacked and slashed. Late last year I bought a copy of 'Red Nails' edited by Karl Edward Wagner which presented Howard's Conan in the original and I enjoyed reintroducing myself to Howard's Conan quite a bit. This burst of buying was in part brought on by reading the updated version of Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn, which was a highly readable journey into Howard's life. Reading that made me want to start reading more Howard again. I've also just bought the newly announced book by The Robert E Howard Press. Four books from them so far - including Mark Finn's - and every one a beautifully produced edition with great contents.

I also invested in Book Collector 8.0 Pro from I've been toying with cataloguing my book collection for a while and have been making spreadsheets and databases but this program was a godsend. Just type in the ISBN number and the program gets all the details from the internet and the book is catalogued. The program does lack in certain areas: I can't put in details about limited editions, number X out of 100 and so on, and some of the information that can be put in seems pointless to me, but the speed at which the books can be recorded makes the program worth the money. It doesn't always get the details right - such as the correct cover - but I managed to catalogue over two hundred books in a couple of hours. Typing in all that information would have taken ages; even if it was basic information such as title, author, publisher, year published and format.

It'll also be nice to find out how many books I actually have as they are scattered around the house in various rooms and cupboards. The program has some other features which are interesting. There are some charts and statistics. With a few over 200 books entered it tells me I have 52 Bob Shaw books, 49 Robert E Howard books, 24 Kenneth Robeson (Doc Savage) books, 22 Theodore Sturgeon books, 14 Neal Asher books; the rest are single figures. But I'm guessing that's only about a quarter of the books I have and there are a ton of P K Dick books to be entered, quite a lot of Robert Silverberg, Philip Jose Farmer and others.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Getting Grumpy?

Been a bit lax in posts lately, partly because I had little to write about but mainly because I've been a bit lazy blog wise, deferring and deferring doing some posts.

I’ve also been wondering if I’m turning into a grumpy old man. I've bought a lot of books lately and have been disappointed and pissed off with most of them.

I've bought a fair amount of nonfiction recently, which is quite rare as I generally think twice and then think for a third time before buying nonfiction books, in the main because they are more expensive than fiction, and I feel have a reduced re read factor (fiction authors must be bitches; having a higher cover price the nonfiction crew would be getting higher royalties). And I've found Penguin books in particular to be horrendously expensive. Doubly so in that they also produce a lot of public domain material where no royalties are paid and yet those books are still expensive.

I picked up How To Destroy The Universe and dipped in and out of it and it is pure mince. For a start the author (Paul Parsons) accepts Man Made Global Warming - particularly ironic as another chapter is How To Predict the Weather where he concludes we can't because the system is so complex; but one tiny trace gas from us can overrule this complex system and cause global warming - the chapters bear little resemblance to the chapter headings and are short, both in length and content.

I was very intrigued by Empire State by Adam Christopher, and picked it up a few times in some shops before buying it from WH Smith. Unfortunately I couldn't get past Chapter Two as in the first chapter the point of view kept appearing to flip back and forward between Rex and Jerome which made it feel confusing. Chapter Three also started on Rex and I'm thinking 'where's this Red Bradley that's talked about on the blurb on the back?' Does this author know nothing? Chapter three and the main character hasn't been introduced yet? How did he get this published?

Year's Best SF 16 was snaffled from Waterstone's and I was looking forward to some good short stories. It was priced at £6.99 and was an American import. Unfortunately I was disappointed as it seems the art of short story writing has been lost. Meandering pish is the phrase that springs to mind most. Very few stories hooked me from the beginning, developed the story or idea and finished with a punch. David Langford's story started off well and developed quite nicely but there was no payoff, and the ending was a bit of a let down (Sorry Dave). Terry Bisson's story felt like it finished halfway through. Alastair Reynold's story didn't develop and I dropped it several pages in from boredom. There were a few I couldn't get into right from the off. This is the best SF there is? The book is barely a year old and has a wide variety of authors, but as I said, the art of the short story seems to have been lost.

I also saw the remake of Conan The Barbarian (there are too many elements from the Arnie film for it not to be a remake) and was as disappointed as I thought I would be. Visually it was quite good, but as everyone says looks aren’t everything. The script was bad, the acting was bad and the fight scenes were too long. In the end it was the little things such as pronunciation that got to me. Hyrkania was repeatedly referred to as high re kania by the 'pureblood.' Archeron was pronounced asheron. I don’t know about anyone else but when I read Howard and that work came up it was pronounced in my head arkeron, as in arachnid. And I swear that after the slaves were freed the theme tune to the Old Grey Whistle Test was played. Conan was unrecognisable as a character from the Howard stories and the locations bore no resemblance to the world Howard created. Particularly irritating was the ‘I love you son’ bit from Hellboy and similar mushy stuff of the same ilk. Yeah, that's how barbarians behave in the face of death, get all soppy.

There have been some good things. I bought City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton and it was a joy to read. I don't normally go in much for fantasy fiction or variants thereof (Bob Howard pretty much predates the genre and so doesn't count) but the writing style and world building made it as enjoyable a read as I've had in a while. Plus I've got a couple of old Neal Asher books which have elbowed their way up my reading list, including Africa Zero, which a few weeks ago was impossible to find on the internet. A revised biography of R E Howard was ordered as soon as I knew it had been announced and with any luck will be with me by the end of the month.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Quick Update

No much going on recently, hence the lack of any posts. More keys are not working on my main laptop, which means it is getting unusable as the keys that have no gone are letters. I'm now uninstalling as much software from the computer as I can while I can. Loosing letters makes it far more difficult to use the computer. However, if I can use a USB mouse there's no reason I can't use a USB keyboard, and hence extend the life of the laptop. It' something to look into.

I've bought a lot of books recently, including tomes from Rhys Hughes and Neal Asher(direct and signed by the author!) so I have a lot to read through. There have also been books bought in shops as I used up most of my points on my Waterstone's card. Since they dropped the 3 for 2 it's hardly worth browsing let alone buying. It's a sad day when newsagents give better deals than dedicated bookshops.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Doing Nothing

Not had much worth blogging about lately. Everything has been calm and quiet.

I ordered The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer Volume 2 Of Dust and Soul a while ago and it arrived a few weeks back. Not only that but I got a nice little bookmark thanking me for being one of the first one hundred to order the book. I've read through some of it and enjoyed what I've read so far but I'm saving the novella for later on. It's a numbered limited edition and I got the same number as volume one.

pjfbkmark1  pjfbkmark2

Also a limited edition is Spicy Adventures by Robert E Howard, which arrived last week, and again I received the same number as previous books bought. The stories were published in the pulps and in a paperback in the 1980s. I have the 1980s paperback and it's in quite good nick: apparently it's a bit of a rare item. Again this is a well made book, solid and bright with clean bright white pages. Taken from the original manuscripts the stories are supposed to be substantially different from the previously published versions, and I'm looking forward to reading these and the extras included in the book. I might even dig out the old paperback and see what the differences were from the previously published versions to the original manuscripts.

I noticed that the Waterstone’s shop I frequent most has totally redesigned their layout. The Science Fiction section has been moved and revamped, beefed up a bit.

I've recently picked up a couple of Neal Asher novels. I got his newest hardback, The Departure, and in the main quite liked it. At present I'm reading Orbus, which I picked up at Waterstone's in hardback for £5.99. It was in a section for reduced and remaindered books. Remaindered books used to be a few boxes on a table the back of the shop. I also got a collection of three stories by Elmore Leonard. I’ve read a couple and they’re quite good.

I visited Hanselled Books some months ago and decided to take a trip in again. I went a bit mad and got a fair few books, including quite a bit of non-fiction. I picked up books from a few new to me authors that piqued my interest and a couple from favourite authors. The non-fiction mainly centred on Scottish myths and tales and a couple of books about the Medieval period. The fiction was either SF or crime fiction.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Interzone No 67 January 1993, ISSN 0264-3596

It’s been a long time, as the song says.

There hasn’t been much activity on the Bob Shaw front. I’ve only got one of his books to get in hardback, Palace of Eternity, before my Gollancz collection is complete. I did try to buy it on eBay but my best offers kept getting knocked back.

Once the hardbacks are complete it is then on to getting all his short stories, which means various Science Fiction magazines.

But, bought from eBay, was the special edition of Interzone by and about Bob Shaw: number 67 from January 1993. According to the Editorial is was due to appear a year previously but was delayed due to the death of Bob’s wife: indeed the issue is dedicated to the memory Sadie Shaw.

There’s two Bob Shaw stories in this issue, A Time To Kill and Alien Porn. There’s an interview with Bob Shaw by Helen Wake, Brian Stableford does a review of Shaw’s work and finally there are extracts from Shaw’s non-fiction book How To Write Science Fiction.

The only thing new to me is A Time To Kill, seeing as the other piece of fiction, Alien Porn, is an extract from Warren Peace – which is nicely placed at the middle of the magazine, and therefore has the staples going through it.*

I’m saving A Time To Kill for later on in the week, when I can sit down, read and savour a brand new (to me) Shaw story.

There were a couple of interesting titbits throughout the magazine though. Apparently The Ceres Solution was heavily edited for the UK edition – I’ll have to buy a US version to re read it – and there was hint that a revised edition (‘new, improved version’) of this novel could be released in the UK. That never happened but there’s nothing stopping Gollancz doing it. Bob Shaw himself provided the cartoons for the How To Write Science Fiction section. Also revealed was that the character from Who Goes Here, Warren Peace, was to have appeared in two more novels after Warren Peace. One wonders how far, if at all, Bob Shaw got with these?

I was also able to compare Interzone past and present. Interzone is still going strong, although it doesn’t appear to number issues any more, and is bloody good value for money nowadays considering the cover price of the 1993 issue was £2.50 (put up that very issue) and the cover price for Interzone now is £3.95. I don’t think that’s much of an increase over nearly twenty years.


*You have to read either Warren Peace or the story to understand this reference.

Friday, 19 August 2011


On the whole I find Microsoft products quite competent and usable. I came across Webmatrix quite recently, billed as a simple web page design tool, where websites can be created and published for free. The home page for the application had the Wordpress logo on it so I thought it was worth downloading and having a look. I already have Artisteer, and – now that a few settings have been changed on my servers – installing plugins and updating Wordpress directly is a breeze.

The first red flag for Webmatrix was that you can’t download and install it directly. It has to download a stub and then there are online downloads and installations that happen within another program. Twelve products in all were downloaded and the ‘minutes’ that it was supposed to take was closer to half an hour.

When it was finished dumping software on my hard drive I launched the app and selected the create Wordpress page option, whereupon it told me that MySql wasn’t installed and would I like to install it? I select yes and am presented with a request for username and password. Tip for Microsoft: don’t create and distribute programs that have this level of failure at the ‘create document’ stage.

It was probably the quickest time software was on my computer before being removed. And, of course, all the twelve applications had to be uninstalled one at a time.

Someone should tell Microsoft that installing the Microsoft Web Platform Installer to then install Webmatrix and add ons before installing the latest version of web applications is not simple but is in fact a fairly complicated procedure; particularly in comparison to something like Wordpress which does in fact have a simple five minute install. The database stuff for Wordpress is dealt with before installing Wordpress, not after. Simple fact, if software isn’t usable it wont get used.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Upgrade of Blog

I upgraded Artisteer – or, rather, bought a year of updates. It’s up to version three now and had a few new features that looked cool. So I spent the money and downloaded then activated the latest version. It seems a little slower but at least it was able to upload successfully to blogger. The last time I tried that the whole blog went haywire and I had to chose one of the default templates, which I’ve been using ever since. A few clicks in Artisteer and then uploading it and the new template is fine.