James Bradley's Blog, page 5

June 3, 2013

This is completely fabulous, especially if you’re a Dickens tragic like me.


And once you’ve stopped giggling, this piece about literary fakery and the strange story of the time Dickens didn’t meet Dostoyevsky is very worth a read.




Filed under: Books, Humour, Stuff Tagged: Charles Dickens, Morrissey, The Smiths
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on June 03, 2013 17:50 • 50 views

May 31, 2013

Shining GirlsDeep in the final stages of the second draft of my new novel, so no time to post, but thought I might link to a few recent reviews. First up I’ve got a long piece on Patrick Ness’ The Crane Wife in the Sydney Review of Books, in which I talk a little bit about about folk tales and the way contemporary writers tend to (mis)read them. It was a fun piece to write and I’m really pleased to be a part of the SRB, which – much to the credit of its editor, James Ley – seems to have come into the world pretty much fully formed, delivering one fantastic piece after another.


Over in today’s Weekend Australian I’ve got a piece on Lauren Beukes’ science fiction-inflected riff on the serial killer novel, The Shining Girls, and going back a few weeks, a longish piece on Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins and Michael Kimball’s Big Ray, both of which feature obese characters. And if you’re interested you can also check out my reviews of Ron Rash’s Nothing Gold Can Stay and Sean Howe’s excellent and extremely entertaining history of Marvel Comics, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story.


I’ve got several more pieces due out over the next few weeks, as well as a story I’m really pleased with, so will link to them as they appear.



Filed under: Books, Comics Tagged: Book Reviews, James Ley, Jami Attenberg, Lauren Beukes, Marvel Comics, Michael Kimball, Patrick Ness, Ron Rash, Sean Howe
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 31, 2013 21:13 • 54 views

May 27, 2013

Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 27, 2013 16:43 • 47 views

May 21, 2013

9780143569657


I’m delighted to say my novelette, Beauty’s Sister, which was published as a digital-only Penguin Special last year is now available as a nifty orange Penguin paperback. You can see the rather lovely cover on the right (I know it’s been said before, but the orange Penguin livery is one of the truly great pieces of design), and if you’re in Australia you should also be able to buy it at your local bricks and mortar bookshop (elsewhere you’ll have to check out online retailers or buy it in digital form for  KindleiBooks,Google Play, or Kobo (or for Kindle in the UK)).


As the blurb below explains, ‘Beauty’s Sister’ is a reworking of ‘Rapunzel’, but along with ‘Catspaw, or The Rakshasa’s Servant’, it’s also one of a series of “tales” I’ve been working on over the past year or two. At some point they’ll hopefully form a cycle of some kind, but for now I’m just enjoying exploring the things they let me do with magic and fables.


Anyway, the blurb is below. If you’d like to buy a copy check out your local bookshop or take a look on Booko. And as I said above, if paper is no longer your thing you can also buy it for for KindleiBooks,Google Play, or Kobo (and for Kindle in the UK)).


“A story of jealousy, passion and power, Beauty’s Sister is a dark and gripping reimagining of one of our oldest tales, Rapunzel, from acclaimed novelist James Bradley.”“Juniper, living deep in the forest with her parents, is stunned to discover that the beautiful girl living isolated in a nearby tower is her sister. When the two girls meet, what begins as a fascination and a friendship ultimately develops into something truly sinister.


I hope you like it. I’m thrilled it’s now in paperback.



Filed under: Books, Writing Tagged: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Rapunzel, Short Stories
1 like · Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 21, 2013 16:37 • 76 views

May 18, 2013

Strandbeest


I have to thank Sean Williams for alerting me to this video about the astonishingly beautiful work of Dutch sculptor, Theo Jansen. Called Strandbeest (Stranbeests? Strandbeesten?) they are crafted from plastic piping and walk and move using systems of sails to harness the wind.


Even on video they’re extraordinary things: marvellously intricate, improbable, strangely weightless, but what really fascinates me about them is the quality Jansen himself is alert to, which is the way their motion and delicate skeletal structures seem to elide the boundary between the biological and the mechanical. Nor is this just a matter of appearance: Jansen designs them using  a computer program that utilises genetic algorithms to improve their design and selectively “breeds” them to improve their performance. Little wonder that as they shimmer along the beach it’s so easy to believe you’re seeing some form of alien life possessed of its own presence and purpose.


This quality is also present in many of the creations of roboticists at places like M.I.T. (or this robotic pack mule designed for use in Afghanistan and other mountainous areas (and indeed drones like the ones featured in the final moments of the same video)), and, in rather different form in the work of artists such as Patricia Piccinini (whose bizarre Skywhale has been hovering over Canberra for the past week or so) and Miyo Ando’s beautiful work with bioluminescence, all of which seek to grapple with the way the once clear divisions between life and non-life, biological and artificial are breaking down (interestingly Jansen’s creatures are created from plastic tubing, itself, and artificial substance made from organic compounds). These are questions I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, partly because the novel I’m working on is set across the next century, and is very much concerned with many of these questions and the intersecting notion of the Anthropocene (as was my Aurealis Award-shortlisted story, ‘Visitors’), partly because I’m hoping to write something rather longer on the subject later in the year. But in the meantime you should take the time to watch the videos below, and to visit Jansen’s website, which has more information about him and the project.





Filed under: Science and Nature, Technology, Visual Art Tagged: Kinetic Sculpture, Strandbeest, Theo Jansen
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 18, 2013 20:56 • 75 views

May 13, 2013

2001 Dave


I’m 46 tomorrow. Perhaps because of that I’ve spent a lot of the past couple of years working my way back through a lot of the books and music I loved as an adolescent. For the most part that’s been a fascinating and often genuinely exciting process: rediscovering The Beatles after 25 years was magical, as was working my way through the backlists of New Wave writers such as Robert Silverberg (if you haven’t read Downward to the Earth, run don’t walk).


But one of the most unexpected – and joyous – moments was watching Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey again as research for a piece for The Australian.


Like many people I’ve seen 2001 a number of times, and each time it’s been a different film. The first time, as a 13 year-old in Adelaide in 1980, I found it majestic but baffling, the second, in my late teens it seemed dated and odd, the third, about 15 years ago (when I sat next to George Miller at the Cremorne Orpheum) I thought it was a boring and portentous exercise in 1960s faux-profundity.


Yet this time (or times, actually, since I ended up watching it three times) I found myself transfixed and astonished, right from the first moments. As I half-understood 15 years ago what I was seeing was very much an artefact of its times, but it was also much, much more than that. The music, the imagery, the strange plasticity of the environments, Keir Dullea’s brilliantly minimal performance, the wonderful, nested imagery of eyes and observation, Ligeti’s shimmering music, all seemed part of a seamless whole. Even the pacing, which I had mistaken for an exercise in Kubrickian perversity seemed visionary, an attempt to push past everything we know about the rhythms of cinema and demand we see again (to be honest I suspect the pacing is also Kubrickian perversity, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive). And although I’ve mentioned its effect on films like Prometheus before, it was also startling to be reminded how deeply it has influenced science fiction film and television over the past four and a half decades.


All of which is a long-winded way introduction to my piece about the film, which I’ve just posted in the Non-Fiction section. You can read a little bit below, alternatively just hop over and read the whole thing.


And since I’ve completely failed to write the piece I meant to write about David Bowie’s The Next Day I’m going to take a moment and point you to the Bowie2001 project, which mixes footage from the film with remixed version of a series of classic Bowie tracks. You can download the remixed tracks, the mixtape or torrent the movie from the Bowie2001 website. Alternatively I highly recommend Rick Moody’s encyclopaedic article about The Next Day.


And here’s the introduction to the piece itself:


“Even 45 years after its release it is difficult to know what to make of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001. Is it, as polls such as Sight & Sound’s recent survey of the greatest films of all time declared, one of the most important cinematic works ever created? Or is it, as Pauline Kael, who described it as ‘monumentally unimaginative’, and Rock Hudson – who surely spoke for a great many when he leapt to his feet at one early screening and demanded ‘Will somebody tell me what the hell this is about?’ – believed, a baffling, over-long exercise in directorial hubris?


“The answer, of course, is that it is both. Stretching from the dawn of time to (what was then) the future, from the Earth to the moons of Jupiter and (as the title of its dialogue-free fifth and final section, asserts) ‘Beyond the Infinite’, it is a film that demands the viewer give away many of their assumptions about what they are watching and how to watch it, to surrender themselves to its rhythms and its mysteries. It is a point Kubrick himself made in an interview at the time of the film’s release, when he  ’You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film – and such speculation is one indication that it has succeeded in gripping the audience at a deep level – but I don’t want to spell out a verbal road map for 2001 that every viewer will feel obligated to pursue or else fear he’s missed the point.’” Read more …


And finally, here’s the extraordinary scene in which the Monolith on the Moon communicates with its twin in orbit around Jupiter.




Filed under: Film Tagged: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus, Stanley Kubrick
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 13, 2013 19:55 • 46 views

May 7, 2013

rakshasaJust a quick note to say I’ve got a story in the May issue of Aurealis, which hits the interwebs today. Entitled ‘Catspaw, or The Rakshasa’s Servant’, it’s basically a contemporary folk tale, and was inspired by a post on Lev Grossman’s blog which reproduced the image on the right, an image that will be immediately recognisable to anybody who played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s (next up, a story called ‘The Unbearable Squareness of Gelatinous Cubes’).


Anyway, you can purchase Aurealis from Smashwords for AU$2.99, which seems an absolute bargain for a story that features duelling shapeshifting tiger demons. And which is really a tribute to my many years as a devoted player of role-playing games.



Filed under: Writing Tagged: Fantasy, Fiction, Lev Grossman, Short Stories
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on May 07, 2013 17:19 • 55 views

April 16, 2013

I have to confess I haven’t been a huge fan of the last couple of Iron & Wine albums. Despite the occasional marvellous song (‘Flightless Bird, American Mouth’) they’ve felt caught somewhere between the hushed intensity of And the Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days (apparently the distinctive whispered vocals on the former were because Sam Beam’s baby daughter was asleep in the next room) and the more expansive arrangements he seemed to be pursuing on The Shepherd’s Dog and Kiss Each Other Clean. But right from the looselimbed, sun-warmed zig-zag of its opener, ‘Caught in the Briars’, his new album, Ghost on Ghost, is a revelation: gorgeous, warm, even a little bit funky, a combination in which the more complex musical ideas Beam has been exploring in recent years finally serve to reveal his real strength as a songwriter.


For now at least you can stream the full album on NPR’s First Listen; alternatively you can check out the video for the album’s third track, ‘Joy’, below.




Filed under: Music Tagged: Iron & Wine
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on April 16, 2013 16:11 • 39 views

April 1, 2013

'West Beach Sandhills', © 2007, Barry Leadbeater

‘West Beach Sandhills’, © 2007, Barry Leadbeater


When I began this site part of my plan was to use it to publish short pieces of fiction, either drawn from works in progress or harvested from other published and unpublished sources. In the end that didn’t happen, mostly because the moment never really seemed right, but just lately I’ve been thinking I might start to post a few things here.


To that end I’ve just uploaded my story, ‘The Flats’, which was published a couple of years ago in the Get Reading! anthology, 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2011. I’ve chosen it as the first one partly because I like it, and partly because a translation by Jorge Salavert has just been published in the Spanish-language literary magazine, Hermano Cerdo, so it seems sensible to have the English-language version available as well.


You can read ‘The Flats’ online now. If you’d like information about some of the other stories I’ve published recently you can check out my new Short Fiction page, or you can go direct to the source and grab a copy of my Aurealis Award shortlisted story, ‘Visitors’, from the Review of Australian Fiction or read ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ over at Overland or in Best Australian Stories 2012Australian (and I think, US) readers can also grab copies of my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’ for KindleiBooksGoogle Play, and Kobo, while UK readers can download it for Kindle.


Meanwhile I have to get back to my novel …



Filed under: Writing
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on April 01, 2013 20:09 • 47 views

SunriseWhen I began this site part of my plan was to use it to publish short pieces of fiction, either drawn from works in progress or harvested from other published and unpublished sources. In the end that didn’t happen, mostly because the moment never really seemed right, but just lately I’ve been thinking I might start to post a few things here.


To that end I’ve just uploaded my story, ‘The Flats’, which was published a couple of years ago in the Get Reading! anthology, 10 Short Stories You Must Read in 2011. I’ve chosen it as the first one partly because I like it, and partly because a translation by Jorge Salavert has just been published in the Spanish-language literary magazine, Hermano Cerdo, so it seems sensible to have the English-language version available as well.


You can read ‘The Flats’ online now. If you’d like information about some of the other stories I’ve published recently you can check out my new Short Fiction page, or you can go direct to the source and grab a copy of my Aurealis Award shortlisted story, ‘Visitors’, from the Review of Australian Fiction or read ‘The Inconvenient Dead’ over at Overland or in Best Australian Stories 2012Australian (and I think, US) readers can also grab copies of my Rapunzel novelette, ‘Beauty’s Sister’ for KindleiBooksGoogle Play, and Kobo, while UK readers can download it for Kindle.


Meanwhile I have to get back to my novel …



Filed under: Writing
1 like · Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on April 01, 2013 20:09 • 60 views