It’s not what you say, it’s the way that you say it: a view on Hugo-gate

jonathan ross

Sorry, I lied.

If you haven’t heard about the debacle which unfolded over the weekend, the summary is this: Jonathan Ross was going to be hosting the 2014 Hugo Awards; some people weren’t too impressed with the choice of him as host; in the resultant controversy, he ended up stepping down.

Now, there are plenty of opinions floating around here — too many, in fact — and I don’t really want to get into the substantive issues. I doubt that this post will make me many friends, but if I wanted a quiet life I wouldn’t have a blog. Or a Twitter account. Or the internet. In fact I’d live in a cave somewhere, cut off from the rest of the world.

But what the hell, eh?

Read on…

Brave New Worlds…

Rather a sleek bit of kit, if I do say so myself.

Some of you may remember, earlier this year, I posted a blog entry decrying the rise of the e-format of fiction. Well, brace yourself for a hypocritical U-turn worthy of the Tory/Lib Dem coalition…

I got a Kindle for Christmas. Before you start breaking out the effigies, let me explain. My principle reason for this was academic. As a law student, I have to read a frankly stupid number of academic articles per week, and since reading from a computer screen gives me a headache I end up printing them out. Which costs a fair bit. Thankfully, I can instead download them for free and read them on my shiny new Kindle, without headaches. Primarily because it isn’t shiny.

But I’d been lying if I tried to claim that as the only reason I wanted one. After all, it’s not “Treason in the Age of Terrorism” I’ve been reading for the last few days, but Gary McMahon’s “Rough Cut”. Which I highly recommend, by the way.

No, I’m also very much interested in the fiction on offer. To be completely honest, I’m a little disappointed with the price of some e-books. Unless you’re after fairly underground stuff, or standard e-reader fodder by Dan Brown or Stieg Larsson, then you’re unlikely to pay any less than you would for the print version. Which seems a little odd. I mean, less needs to be spent on the physical production. So does more money go to the author? Doubtful, although if it does I withdraw all criticism.

But anyway, the actual Kindle itself is a pleasure to read. Light enough to hold for long periods of time without tiring, a screen clear enough to read in sunshine, and a tantalising selection of books at my fingertips. Not to mention that, as the more expensive 3G version, it also serves as mobile internet access. And all without the Apple-ness of an iPad.

So yes, I’m converted. I’m not swearing off paper books, and for my favourites I still want physical copies. Digital will always lack the enticing smell, feel and general experience of reading a paper- or hard-back book, but if digital is the future, then there are much worse places it could be headed than the Kindle.

Plus, I can get the Guardian on it!

Meet the New Politics…

…same as the Old Politics.

So it’s happened. For almost a week, we have been living in a ConDem Nation, under a Libservative government, led by (coined by the Mirror in a surprising, if simplistic, show of wit) Dick Clameron. The government that loves a good contradiction started with that now-famous love-in in the garden of Number 10, and made half of the country feel supremely uncomfortable. And on the front page of Friday’s Guardian Clegg looked very much like he felt the same way.

The attempted sell of this new oxymoronic regime was the “New Politics”, a supposed new era and new way of running the country. And so far, so…meh. Nothing, to my mind, has really changed. I mean, the Department of Children, Schools and Families is now the Department of Education; everything the government can get its hands on will be cut in an attempt to bring back the recession, the only circumstances the Tories are comfortable in; and endless promises how things are going to be different.

The main proposed change is a worrying one, though. Clameron wants to change the constitution so that in order to dissolve Parliament 55% of MPs would need to vote in favour of it. We’re told that this won’t apply to votes of no confidence, and that it’s a necessary part of having fixed Parliament terms, but I still don’t buy it. We have a coalition government, of which the Conservatives command 47% of Parliament. Less than a majority. Under this new proposal, if the Libseravtive coalition fell apart, we could be in the bizarre situation where although the minority Conservative government couldn’t pass any legislation, it also couldn’t be removed.

This seems to me a lot like entrenchment, which is something that the British constitution is fundamentally against, and which looks like Cameron trying to cement himself into power so that he can stay in Number 10 even if public opinion turns against him. Yeah, the New Politics are looking great.

Also, the New Politics also seems to include a number of wholly inappropriate ministerial appointments. First off, in this new coalition, there are going to be only 4 women. Now, I’m not a raging feminist by any means, but I do feel that such a proportion is wholly unrepresentative, and something of a disgrace for the Lib Dems, and a Conservative Party we are constantly being told has changed. Not to mention that the new Equalities minister is Theresa May, a woman whose anti-equality credentials have already been well-documented across the internet (see the Facebook group aimed at removing her). To put her, of all people, in that position when the Coalition has a host of Liberal Democrats, and Alan Duncan of the Tories, is just illogical. Though I question the appropriateness of anyone who voted against the repeal of Section 28 being in a modern government, to be honest (but since Kemptown turned blue at the election, maybe the message is that homophobia is alright now, I don’t know).

The other frankly stupid ministerial appointment is George Osborne as Chancellor. I think that most of the electorate would agree that Vince Cable (the new Business Secretary) is a very intelligent, very sensible, and extremely qualified man. He was the ideal candidate for Chancellor (that is, if Cameron was viewing the Coalition Cabinet as a way of getting the best people into the best places, not just a boys club he had to throw a few minor roles to Lib Dems in order to satisfy the smaller party). And yet we end up with George Osborne, a man who has little to no understanding of money, and who thinks that a flat tax is the way forwards. Another kick in the nads for social justice, then.

So this Coalition has been, from the outset, every bit the disappointment I expected it to be. And I think Clegg might be beginning to see his error. The backlash against him has been clear online (thousands of people have joined or rejoined Labour in the last week, a sizable number of them disillusioned former Lib Dems), and even Charles Kennedy and Paddy Ashdown have criticised it. He’s sold his soul for the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, and judging from the picture of him on the front page of Friday’s Guardian, he seems to know it. I don’t think the New Politics are what he expected them to be…