The stability of the Glitter Band depends on social cohesion, Mister Garlin. We don’t have standing armies, we don’t have a citizen militia. Even the local constabularies constitute a vanishingly small proportion of our population. But this system only functions in the absence of malicious fear-mongering. I have no time for those who disseminate lies and half-truths for their own ends. ― Prefect Tom Dreyfus in Alastair Reynolds’s Elysium Fire
Come in, let me turn down the music which is all live Oysterband this afternoon. It’s Autumn today with a hard frost forecast within three weeks. Gus, our Estate Gardener, is busy organising work schedules for everyone who’ll be doing the harvest before that event occurs. It’s easier this year as we’ve no events on the Estate because of the Pandemic so everyone’s able and eager to help out. It’s a little earlier than ideal but weather is what it is.
The harvest this year was changed as we didn’t host any events so lots of what we’re farming this year will go to other Estates in this region. We’ll do everything strictly on a barter basis but somebody’s always interested in, say, lots of blackberries or pear cider in exchange for what they’ve got, say their version of feta cheese.
Lots more reading has been going on here as the staff has more leisure time without the events we usually host. Even the Pub’s been quiet so I’m working my way through all of Xuya Imperium stories of Aliette De Bodard while listening in off hours to Alastair Reynold’s Prefect Dreyfus Emergencies series. I include Chasm City in there even though Dreyfus isn’t in it as it deals with what happens to the Glitter Band.
Cat has a story for us: ‘I don’t normally purchase a collection for just one story but the community over at File 770 was saying in a discussion of AIs that the Hugo Award-winning ’Cat Pictures Please’ was a story that the folks there who hadn’t read it should really read, so I went to iBooks and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories. Yes they were right — you really should go read it, as it’s a unique take on what happens when an AI decides it’s concerns about us and wants to make us feel better.’
He then moves on to a full-cast production audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: ‘I spent nearly four very entertaining hours listening to the latest interaction of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, a full cast production that I swear was completely rewritten yet again for this production. Gaiman would win the 2015 BBC Audio Drama for Outstanding Contribution to Radio Drama for this series. He certainly deserved it!’
Triskell Press has released a digital edition of Charles de Lint’s Yarrow: An Autumn Tale, which Grey delightfully notes is ‘set in de Lint’s Ottawa, the one he first envisioned for his novel Moonheart, and expanded in its sequel, Spiritwalk. Those readers who have fallen in love with the wonderful Tamson House of these two novels will be delighted to note its brief appearance in Yarrow as well. However, the characters in Yarrow are part of different story than the residents of Tamson House and their associates, and Yarrow is a stand-alone novel.’
I‘ve said it before that Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span always seem to evoke Autumn for me, so it’s fitting that Lars has a review of Brian Hinton and Geoff Wall’s biography of Ashley Hutchings: The Guv’nor & the Rise of Folk Rock as Ashley helped birth both of those groups: ‘To some of us the subject of this book is, if not God, at least the musical equivalent to the pope. Name a group you like and have followed over the years, and there is a fair chance that Mr. Hutchings was there to start it, or at least influence the starting of it. He is in one way or another responsible for a very large number of the records in my collection, and yes, we are certainly talking three figures, here.’
Robert has a review of a story about three very unusual detectives: ‘Camille Bacon-Smith’s Daemon Eyes is an omnibus edition of Eye of the Daemon and Eyes of the Empress, which tell the story of the half-daemon Evan Davis, who is part of a most unusual detective agency.’
Next, he takes us on a tour of Masks of the World: ‘Masks occur in every human culture I’ve ever run across, and their purpose is always the same: disguise. In the theater of ancient Greece, the disguise served to submerge the actor in the persona of the god or hero he portrayed. Among the Cherokee and Iroquois of North America, the fearsome headgear served to frighten malignant spirits away. In Mycenae, masks were funerary effigies, a practice found throughout the ancient world and also found among the great pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas. . . .’
Warner brings us a combination that may at first seem somewhat outré: Doctor Who: The Lovecraft Invasion is Robert Valentine’s look at the famed horror author through the lense of a Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama. Featuring a living weapon that feeds on the fears of its host, the tale quickly centers upon the titular author and takes a look at his creations and his flaws.
Warner next presents us with a story collection that falls into several different genres: ‘Carrie Vaughn is an experienced hand at urban fantasy, and Kitty’s Mix Tape is a nice collection of shorter works set in one of her milieus. These stories range from the distant past to after the end of the Kitty Norville book series, and feature a wide variety of characters from that setting. It is a fascinating range of stories that veers from detective fiction, to period romance, to war drama and beyond. Indeed, there is a little something for everyone in these stories, and as such they serve as an impressive look at Vaughn’s talents.
Jennifer feeds us mint juleps, chipotle-garlic potatoes, and a killer dark chocolate and lemon brownie cake, because life on lockdown is a clear-cut choice between eating heart-healthy and eating for your sanity.
Speaking of eating during lockdown, one never can have enough chocolate at hand to eat, can one? Robert has three Lindt Excellence bars for us to consider, to wit Cocoa Supreme Dark Lindt Excellence.Intense Orange Lindt Excellence and Intense Mint. Read his review to see which he really, really liked.
Denise on the other hand looked at some snacks for you — DeLallo Flat Fillets of Anchovies, Family Volcano Popping Candy of the lychee variety and Huang Fei Hong Spicy Crispy Peanut. Those should keep you snacking happily!
It’s Autumn which to me is the perfect time to start watch some British mysteries so I’m going to recommend three for you — Gosford Park, a Hercule Poirot Christmas story and a Doctor Who episode.
David starts us off with Gosford Park: ‘The film begins, as do most studies of murder in British society, by setting the tale. We meet an inordinate number of people (an Altman trait) who come and go with little logic. This is a common enough ploy in the films of Robert Altman, everyone has a reason for being there, and everyone has a story. Pay attention.’ Oh and what stories they tell!
Nect up is Poirot’s Christmas as reviewed by Cat: ‘Ahhhh, an English locked room mystery set at Christmastime! What could be a better diversion on a cold winters night with snow falling outside? I had heard that this DVD was a perfectly faithful adaptation of a beloved Agatha Christie novel so I asked Acorn Media to send along copy for review.’ Yes DVD. It was reviewed a long time ago.
Finally we have a Tenth Doctor story, ‘The Unicorn & The Wasp’ which hep also reviewed: ‘One of my favourite episodes of the newer episodes of this series was a country house mystery featuring a number of murders and, to add an aspect of metanarrative to the story, writer Agatha Christie at the beginning of her career. It would riff off her disappearance for ten days which occurred just after she found her husband in bed with another woman. Her disappearance is a mystery that has never been satisfactorily answered to this day.’
It got made into a video series but I think the original series is far superior. You may remember Garth Ennis’ landmark series Preacher. Well, for our graphic offering today we have a collection of Glenn Fabry’s covers, Preacher: Dead or Alive: ‘You’re an artist, and you’ve been given a very unusual task. Create eye-catching, evocative comic book covers, month in and month out for a new series. The main characters include a hitwoman, a vampire, a preacher possessed by the Word of God, an unstoppable killing machine fueled by divine wrath and mortal hate, a conspiracy to take over the world, and God Himself.’
Cat leads off our music reviews with a look at a recording from Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelly and Charlie Pilzer’s Hambo in the Barn: ‘Back in the twentieth century, a lot of Scandinavians relocated from Sweden and the surrounding countries to the upper Midwest where they became farmers and shopkeepers for the most part. Naturally they brought both their instruments and their music with them. Not surprisingly, this music has persisted to this day which is why this lovely CD exists.’
Gary has a review of a recording by a group called numün, a trio of ‘soundscape designers’ from New York. He says voyage au soleil is a ‘combination of American and Balinese instruments, synthesizers and loops. It’s ambient, it’s soundscape, it’s collage and more, and I personally find this kind of thing a balm during these chaotic times.’
Speaking of Fairport Convention, the group has had many a boxset in its over fifty-year existence and David looks at one of them, Fairport unCconventional: ‘Eleven lead singers, eleven lead guitarists, six fiddlers, seven drummers, five keyboard players, two bass players, four CDs, one 172 page book, a Family Tree from Pete Frame, a poster by Koen Hottentot, a history of Cropredy, some interesting loose papers and ads, a postcard for a 5th CD and a program from Martin Carthy’s birthday celebration! Whew! Does Free Reed know how to throw a party? Until further notice this box is the anthology of the year! Don’t miss it!’
Gary tells us about Cells Remain, by Midwestern bassist and singer-songwriter Pat Keen. ‘On the surface it’s a sort of singer-songwriter album, featuring Keen singing his songs with baritone-to-falsetto facility, accompanying himself on six- and twelve-string guitars with equal or perhaps surpassing facility.’
The Nashville-based duo called Anne Malin has a new offering that Gary reviews: ‘Sleep, dreams and reveries predominate in Anne Malin’s Waiting Song, a deeply personal and quirky album of country-tinged indie folk-rock.’
‘Brian Scarborough is a trombonist and composer with influences that include two of the great centers of jazz in the Midwest: Kansas City and Chicago,’ says Gary, who reviews his debut solo album Sunflower Song.
Scott was lucky enough to attend a Hoven Droven concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis that later became a two-CD live set. ‘All in all, Jumping At The Cedar is a fine example of what a Hoven Droven concert sounds like, and fans of the band will certainly enjoy it.’
Our What Not this time is about the Folkmanis Puppets of an Autumnal Nature, or at least that’s how Cat defined them. They were the ones Cat asked Folkmanis specifically to send and then he handed off to various staff members for review. So here’s the review of these wonderful puppets.
The Worm in Apple puppet gets reviewed by Robert: ‘One of the more unusual items to cross my desk from Folkmanis is their Worm in Apple Puppet. It’s a nice, big apple — not shiny, since it’s made of plush, but it is very appealing — unless you count the small green worm peeping out of a hole in the side.’
Next up Denise looks at the the Chipmunk in Watermelon puppet. While she’s as entranced as ever by this company’s creations, there’s one quibble. ‘Mine looks as if he’s suffering from agoraphobia. Exo-karpoúzi-phobia, maybe?’ Read her review to find out what’s going on…
She finishes off with the Mouse in Pumpkin puppet: ‘All hail the spice! Pumpkin everything is the rule of the day this time of year, and I’m all for it. Give me my pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies,spicy roasted pumpkin, and pumpkin crumble. And okay, a PSL or two while we’re at it, though I’m more a Chestnut Praline Latte gal myself. So when Folkmanis decided to indulge my love of the orange squash, my grabby hands eagerly shot out. And I’ve been snuggling with this adorable puppet ever since.’
Our music this time is the rave-up by the Oysterband of their ‘The Shouting End of Life’. It was recorded in Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996. It was first released on the album of the same name a year earlier. It’s the take of John Jones on Thatcher and her ugly politics. It memorably has lead vocalist John Jones saying ‘Go fuck yourself.’