Friday, November 07, 2008

Iconoclasts - Andrew Keen - BBC Radio 4

I didn't hear it live (I was watching a fireworks display at the time), but the programme mentioned on a previous post is available to stream for a few days more:

Website here:

The debate was bit of a mess, and nothing much was resolved. None of the participants addressed the fundamental issue - that new media technology has rendered the old gatekeeper-style of publishing obsolete. We live in a different world now, and there's no going back.

When the audio streaming link above expires, download the mp3 from RapidShare:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Andrew Keen and the end of new media

Internet curmudgeon Andrew Keen is at it again, moaning about people creating stuff for free, and telling them that they've got it coming:

Andrew Keen predicts the end of "free labor" online - Boing Boing
...which links to this article at Internet Evolution:
Economy to Give Open-Source a Good Thumping

Keen continues to judge Web 2.0 by mid-twentieth-century standards, but new media technology is fundamentally different from what we had back then, and many of the old criteria have ceased to apply. In the UK we'll be getting more of his doomsaying next week. Here's an extract from


Wednesday 05 November
8:00pm -
BBC Radio 4

Edward Stourton chairs a live discussion series in which guests set out their strong views on a subject, before being challenged by a panel of experts. 2: Andrew Keen, one of the pioneering entrepreneurs of the internet boom, argues that Web 2.0 is an anarchic movement that destroys culture of real value.

It will be interesting to learn who's on the panel of experts. It's a live show, and the producers are asking for listener input during the broadcast: Until then I offer this quote from Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan: "What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Has blogging had its day?

In general agreement with what these people were saying on the Today Programme recently, I think the answer is no.

It is not worth starting a blog, and if you already have one you should think about closing it down, an article on the technology website Wired says. Robin Hamman, of computing consultancy Headshift, and Guardian writer and blogger Kate Bevan discuss whether shorter forms of communication, such as Twitter, are taking over.
They go on about Twitter - a service I've never seen the point of, even if whole swathes of savvy internet users seem to swear by it (though perhaps not literally).

I blog because I'm a writer, and because I frequently don't know what I really think until I've written it down. Whether anyone else reads the thing isn't necessarily an issue (though discourse is, as always, welcome).

(And just in case anyone scoffs at the idea of a monthly post here at WitteringOn being classed as actual blogging, I would refer them to my other blog, Notes from an Evil Burnee.)

If the audio stream isn't working, download the mp3 from RapidShare here:

(5'50"; 1.4 Mb)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Will Eoin Colfer taint Douglas Adams' masterpiece?

Eoin Colfer (pic) has been asked to write the sixth part of Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy 'trilogy', and some people are expressing concern.

I'm linking to the repost on as well as the original Guardian article, because the comments at highlight a common concern raised whenever some piece of literature is 'continued', or a classic film is remade.

People seem to be worried that an inferior sequel or continuation somehow taints the original work. It doesn't. The original work is still there. Look at modernisations of Shakespeare. You may like them or loathe them, but the original plays are still available, entirely unaltered by any reinterpretation. My great uncle, Herbert M. Jenkins, was adamant that Shakespeare should be played in one of only two ways: Elizabethan dress, or the dress of the period the play was portraying. (He had a point - there's a passage in Julius Caesar where Caesar is described by an onlooker as "throwing open his doublet". No mention of him wearing a toga, which seems more likely attire for ancient Rome.)

I think Uncle Bertie was wrong. Authors, dramatists, film-makers, indeed creators of any kind are free to draw on any sources for their inspiration, copyright permitting. They may or may not do a good job (though that's often a matter of opinion or artistic judgement). But whatever they do, they will not extinguish the original work, which is available for anyone to experience in its pristine original form.

Or even to make yet another adaptation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Harlan Ellison: "Pay the Writer" - an outdated concept?

Harlan Ellison is well known for being . . . forthright.

(via WritersWeekly)

His point of view is a valid one, but it's also a little dated in this age of new media. For all his maverick bluster Ellison is an established writer who got where he is today by traditional methods. Those methods have become less appropriate now that so much free stuff is available.

New writers ('underpublished' writers, as Evo Terra of calls them) would do well to explore the alternatives. Slavishly insisting that every word carries a price-tag can be counterproductive. In essence Ellison is right, but it's worth remembering that writers can receive 'value' for their work in other than money.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Muriel Gray on Graphic Novels

In my previous post I casually mentioned my lack of knowledge of graphic novels. Serendipitously BBC Radio 4's Open Book, temporarily hosted by Muriel Gray, featured on Sunday a short discussion on that very subject. The programme will be repeated on Thursday at 4:00 pm, but you can stream the audio for seven days from the 'listen again' service* here:

From the Open Book website:

Graphic Novels

Do you know the fastest growing sector in publishing? Perhaps surprisingly, it is the sector of graphic novels. Danny Fingeroth, author of The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels, and Naomi Alderman, author and graphic novel fan, talk about their favourites.
Details of The Rough Guide to Graphic Novels here.

*If the listen again service gives problems, an mp3 of the relevant excerpt can be downloaded from RapidShare:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"I narrate podcast fiction," he said

Regular readers of this blog will know that I've contributed my voice to various fiction podcasts. My latest is a reading for Transmissions from Beyond, the podcast of TTA Press, who are posting stories from their three main publications, Interzone, Black Static and Crimewave. I narrated "Lady of the Crows", a story by Tim Casson from the first issue of Black Static. (It may have been Black Static's inaugural issue, but the magazine has been going a long time under its previous title of The Third Alternative.)

Regular readers might also know that I've narrated my own short fiction on my podcast The Rev Up Review, and my own first novel The Plitone Revisionist, available for free at

I've learned a few things over the past three years of narrating fiction. The main thing is that I never want to do it live. My raw audio is painful to listen to. For a 30-minute reading I typically record maybe 45 minutes, including pauses to turn pages, cough up my guts clear my throat, or for second, third and sixth retakes. Thankfully we have such applications as Audacity and GarageBand to allow meticulous editing of the raw source, which, with care, can turn something amateurishly halting into a smooth, professional-sounding production.

Audio fiction comes in several flavours. There's the straight reading, with no sound effects, minimal attempts at accents, and maybe some intro and outro music. This is the kind of production I favour, though I've experimented with special processing for telephone or computer/robot effects.

Next there's the enhanced reading, with more sound effects and perhaps some guest voices. This is a kind of half-way house, and requires careful judgement to get right, otherwise it can sound cheesy. Global decisions have to be made regarding sound effects, and stuck to:

"There was a knock at the door."

[FX: sound of door-knocking]
Should the sound-effect come before the words, or after, as above? Or should the words be omitted? Or the sound-effect? Tricky decisions, because getting it wrong can mean the listener is wrenched out of the fictional world, which is the last thing an author wants. Any enhancements to audio fiction should be aimed at increasing the listener's immersion in the story. Anything that draws the listener's attention to the production, the writing, the voice - in fact to anything that isn't the story itself - is to be avoided.

Enhanced audio fiction is also a great deal of work, requiring co-ordination of guest voices, unless your guests are all assembled together for recording (which would require considerable co-ordination in itself). If guests are recording separately and sending their audio files, there's the added complication of differing audio levels, background noise, pacing, etc. An excellent example of such a production is Tee Morris's podcast novel, Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword, though I have to admit I don't feel my own contribution to it was particularly effective.

Finally there's full-cast audio drama. This not only takes a lot of work, it also requires total dedication from everyone participating, whether they're all together in a 'studio' or recording separately. It can be done successfully, and has been: Second Shift, Children of the Gods, Decoder Ring Theater, to mention just a few.

But even the simplest audio fiction requires important decisions at the outset. Just how expressive should the narrator be? How important are accents? My next question should reveal where I stand on these questions. Have you ever read a book written entirely in dialect?

In school our English teachers often read to the class during lessons. I remember one teacher who was extremely expressive, virtually acting his way through the text. It was good narration, in its way. But we had another English teacher who read to us with a very flat voice - practically no expression at all. For me, such a flat reading was much closer to reading the book myself. Straightforward fiction in print rarely has stage directions separate from the text; the 'action' of the story is conveyed in words, and words alone.

One aspect of podcast fiction that may have a bearing on why enhanced audio fiction is popular in the podosphere, is that much podcast fiction is science fiction, and many podcasters are fans of graphic novels. My comments in the previous paragraph do not, obviously, apply to graphic novels (which is a type of fiction I know very little about).

Even if my own preference is for unembellished readings, I acknowledge that audio fiction is not, and never can be, the same as printed fiction. There are clues on the page that cannot be transferred unaltered to the audio version. There are also aspects of printed fiction that go virtually unnoticed on the page, but stand out glaringly when read aloud. One example is speech- or dialogue-tags. Often the layout on the page will indicate who is speaking. "He said" and "she said" will reliably indicate who said what. When narrating, a slight change in voice will do the same, but usually the tags will still be needed. I've noticed several podcasters, however, leaving a lengthy gap between the speech itself and the tag, enough, even, to take a breath. Personally I find this detracts from the narration. Why I should find this distracting was a puzzle, until I reflected on how I normally read printed dialogue (other than when narrating). I realised that the speech tag is taken in by the eye at the same time as the speech itself. The 'who' is apprehended simultaneously with the 'what', not separately. That's why, in my own narration, I tend to close up the gaps between the dialogue and its tags as much as possible.

I've long been a fan of BBC Radio Drama, and of the BBC's fiction readings, many of which are virtually permanently available (if you count the unending repeats) on BBC7, and I've therefore modelled my own narrations on the BBC's output (and that of Oneword Radio, before its unfortunate demise earlier this year). While Martin Jarvis has many fans of his man-of-a-thousand-voices style of narration, I prefer to follow narrators like Alex Jennings, Paul Rhys and Nigel Anthony.

Who would you follow? Want to try? Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top Ten seminal science-fiction films... no particular order - a personal list.

Remember: not in order. Also remember: this is my list.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dark thoughts on The Dark Knight

Having watched Batman Begins a few days previously, and found all the tedious double-revelations of the Liam Neeson ninja character fairly underwhelming, I wasn't holding out much hope for the sequel.

The technology in The Dark Knight was impressive, up to a point. The explosions (and there were lots of them) were impressive, up to a point. The plot was okay, up to point.

That point, for all the above, was reached when the film could have been expected to conclude. It didn't conclude, but went on to portray technology way beyond the realm of credibility, with more and bigger explosions that resembled a random fireworks display, while the plot descended into mephistophelian obfuscation, forsaking any semblance of coherence.

And it was too long. Half an hour of plot-knotting could have been cut without adversely affecting the story - other than to make it marginally clearer.

The film's one redeeming feature was Heath Ledger's career-defining performance as the Joker: manic, psychotic, remorseless - a truly terrifying villain.

Pictacule is changing!

It was an interesting experiment, but now it's time to move on. Pictacule is moving to Flickr, specifically to this growing Flickr set.

The set will consist of new photographs, added as and when I decide to post them. There'll be no fixed schedule. (I do not need any more fixed schedules in my life.)

The Pictacules here have been copied over, but they'll also remain here. All new Pictacules will be posted to the new location.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pictacule 028

Another common view (a variation on Pictacule 024).

Monday, July 07, 2008

Pictacule 027

I ate out this evening. This was dessert.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Pictacule 026

Relative to yesterday's Pictacule, close by.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Pictacule 025

Step this way....

Friday, July 04, 2008

Pictacule 024

A passing view. One I see often.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pictacule 023

How to get pictures out of the camera - one of many (cameras? pictures? card readers?).

Well, um ... yes.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pictacule 022

This is an old one. It's how I listen to my iPod at work.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Pictacule 021

And I didn't even get paid....

Monday, June 30, 2008

Pictacule 020

It's that bit of glass again....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pictacule 019

Whatever it is, they're not going to let it get out.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pictacule 018

What's this? Scary alien, 'War of the Worlds' Martian tripod, or something even more terrible?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pictacule 017

I liked the banding effect here - stripes of sky, cloud, trees and crop (some kind of bean, by the look of it).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pictacule 016

Portsmouth on a summer evening, from Portsdown Hill

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pictacule 015

More pretty purple.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Pictacule 014

Pretty purple.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pictacule 013

Begonia againia.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pictacule 012

More from the garden....

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pictacule 011

Like the previous Pictacule, this was taken in my parents' garden.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pictacule 010

A view of a critter fairly determined not to be in a photograph.

Maybe I need a telephoto lens.

Or a bit more patience.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pictacule 009

Port Solent, about 6:30 pm

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pictacule 008

Taken with on-camera pop-up flash (thanks to Shannon for lending a hand).

Oh, and by the way...'s glass.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pictacule 007

When all the highlights are burnt out of an image, you're left with something like physical typography.

The Number One?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pictacule 006

Portsdown Hill around 6 pm.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pictacule 005

This particular device (of which this is a picture of both sides) appears in various places online.

Such a place is here, but there are several others....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pictacule 004

My new camera arrived today, so naturally I couldn't wait to try it out. "Bosham at Low Tide" is at left. I've tricked up the RAW file from the camera using the supplied software. Probably overdone it (which was deliberate, just to see how it looked).

The other pics I took can be seen on the Flickr photostream here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pictacule 003

This image I've posted is about as sharp as the object itself. Consider it an opener for what's to come....

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pictacule 002

What the hell is this? (Whatever it is, it could do with a good scrub....)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pictacule 001

Welcome to Pictacule!

This is the start of an experiment - an image posted every day, with the pick of the week's images added to a Flickr photostream.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blazing a trail for Podiobook authors: Scott Sigler & Seth Harwood

Look what just arrived!

A package from outside my door yesterday evening contained these two new releases:

Congrats to both of them, and thanks for drawing the mainstream spotlight onto new media - both of these titles were originally released as free podcast novels.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Goodbye Sir Arthur, and thank you

Sad news.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the world's best science-fiction writer, died today, aged 90.

See also, here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What is a blog?

Not only a succinct explanation of what a blog is, but also what it's for: