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Possible controversy ahead. OK, deep breath – and please keep reading – I was raped once. It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, and it didn’t ruin my life. But that isn’t the point. As it happened, I didn’t go to the police – because I was young and unsure of myself, and because it was the early 1980s, and I didn’t have bruises or witnesses, and I went to the man’s house of my own free will (I was supposed to be valuing books for him), and I didn’t think the police would be interested. But if I had gone to the police, and he had been prosecuted, the fact that he didn’t ruin my life would have been irrelevant. You shouldn’t do that because you shouldn’t do it, however the victim feels about it.
Every time I read a report of a trial, and there is evidence given of how it has ruined the victim’s life, or the lives of the victim’s family, I get twitchy. Because, OK, it sounds fine, you have done a terrible thing raping this person or murdering this person, and you have caused all this grief, and that should be reflected in your punishment. BUT – where does reason take it from there? Does it follow that if, as in my case, the victim copes well, or maybe, in the case of a murder, no-one like the victim much, or knew them well, and no-one misses them – what then? Does that make the crime not so bad? Are we saying, in fact, it’s OK to murder unpopular people, that people who cope well with trauma can be raped with impunity? Of course not, no-one would say that. But the fact is, the act is what must not be allowed. The after-effects are not the business of the law. People have said and done things to me that went far closer to ruining my life, because they had a specific effect on me. I’m not asking for those people to go to jail. The law should be concerned with what the perpetrator did, and not, frankly, how anyone feels about it.

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I decided to treat myself to one day of Picocon on Saturday. Both guests very good, Frances Hardinge and Cory Doctorow – Cory gave a disquieting talk on electronic surveillance which I still think I mostly understood. I am now reading Frances’s Gullstruck Island; she is one of those writers who make me feel I have no imagination by comparison. If you haven’t read her books, do, they are amazing.

After some mind-boggling turkey reading and viewing, the day ended with a showing of Galaxy Quest, always enjoyable. Rather sad I couldn’t go again on Sunday and see Kari Sperring and Ian McDonald.

Must try harder next year.

History is never what we suppose. I have just sold a scrapbook of political cartoons from the Daily Graphic, from 1912 and 1913. The three topics that seem to crop up most often are Irish Home Rule, National Insurance, and the Disestablishment of the Church of Wales. So the last really was a big thing – I never knew it was a thing at all except from Chesterton’s poem – Are they clinging to their crosses, F. E. Smith? Where the Breton boat fleet tosses, are they, Smith?

Nothing is ever entirely what we suppose.

(http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/smith.txt)

Very sad to find the estate agents Vanderpump and Wellbelove seem to have become merely Vanderpump. I think something similar happened to Button, Menhenitt and Mutton, though I may be wrong. One wonders if there is an agency matching up wonderful names for estate agents, lawyers, accountants… I remember with delight Bacchus, Gathercole and Partners, not to mention Alabaster, Stray and Clogg. And of course who could forget Hotblack Desiato?
Then there’s lorries. I believe many people collect Eddie Stobarts, but I incline towards Norbert Dentressangle, ever since I first saw one when being driven across France on a school holiday. My absolute favourite, however, which I have seen twice, is F. Pratt & Co, Independent Banana Ripeners of Hemel Hempstead. Who knew there even were independent banana ripeners, let alone in Hemel Hempstead?
While I see that there may be a case for streamlining, and having a name that’s easy to get on the notepaper, it so often diminishes the glorious variety of life. And all too often it results in something unmemorable and often incomprehensible, like those charities that rebrand themselves so as not to actually mention, or even hint at, what they’re trying to achieve.
When I had a shop, I thought long and hard about what to call it, and eventually decided that the only thing I felt comfortable with, that wasn’t misleading or twee, was Marion Pitman, Books. Not exotic, but does what it says on the tin.
This post has neither moral nor message. Thank you.

Should have commented earlier on Fantasycon, in York on the first weekend of September. It was, in fact, great, with good speakers, including the lovely Charlaine Harris; the Alchemy Press books launch, one of which (Urban Mythic 2) has a story of mine; a good poetry session, and lots of meeting up with friends old and new.

But it was without Graham Joyce, who died two days later, and I am very sad. I knew Graham slightly from previous Fantasycons and the British Fantasy Society; he was a brilliant writer, and someone with so much passion, energy, intellect, humour, generosity, wisdom, and downright goodness. So much the sort of person we need more of. If you don’t know his books, find and read them.

Right, must now achieve second blog post. My excuse for the delay is Sidmouth Folk Festival followed by LonCon World SF Convention. However.

OK, news update first. If you go here: http://efanzines.com/bigsky/index.htm you will find a very good fanzine, and if you go to #4 and scroll down far enough, there is a bit by Me. The rest of it is very good though.
And at Fantasycon, on the first weekend in September in York, I have a reading slot at 6.20-6.40 on Friday evening, then on the Saturday at 2pm, Alchemy Press are launching three anthologies, one with added Pitman.

Now I’m going to be boring and contentious for a bit, don’t worry it won’t all be like this.

There is a thing I would like to be able to explain to militant atheists – that those of us who believe in God, or Gods, whatever we call him / her / them, have a different view of the universe from yours. A whole different world. It’s not just the same world with the addition of an old man with a beard and some superstitions. It really is completely different. The physical universe, the laws of science, they’re the same – we don’t deny or ignore them. But it has a whole other dimension – the spiritual, for want of another word – that is equally real – but not physical. We can’t produce scientific evidence of God, because his/her nature is not of that kind – but for us, science is not the only reality. When you suggest we simply get real and abandon our non-scientific beliefs, you are suggesting we deny half of what reality is, for us; deny the existence of a whole dimension of our lives, our world, our universe. For us, “real” and “scientifically provable” are not coterminous. I know, that just sounds like stupidity or insanity. But there it is. We may be wrong; we may be insane; but simply to say that this dimension of our experience is “obviously nonsense” is not, with all due respect, an argument. It may be that we cannot argue, from such different premisses. But please believe that people who believe in God, whoever they consider him / her to be, are not just doing it out of wilful perversity. Faith does not mean “believing what you know to be untrue”.

Have decided I should have a blog, partly because it’s supposed to be a good thing for a writer to have a blog, and partly because I do like the idea of telling the world the brilliant things I’ve seen and heard and thought. I’d love to have one of those newspaper columns where you ramble amusingly about what’s happened during the week, but I don’t think they invite unknown poets and secondhand booksellers to do those…

So. Several people asked me today how I am, and apart from the trifle of having no income because business is terrible, everything’s fine. One good thing is I’ve recently sold two short stories: one to The Mammoth Book of the Vatican Vaults, edited by David V Barrett and due out from Constable and Robinson next spring; the other to The¬†Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber, due to be launched at Fantasycon in September. (Plug duly entered.)

The first story, Encounter on the Rhine, is inspired by the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, a twelfth century abbess, and the second, Cupboard of the Winds, by a piece by the late great Paul Jennings, a man of unparalleled brilliance who wrote a column of the kind alluded to above, in the Observer, for many years. He seems sadly underappreciated. Among many other things, he wrote a wonderful piece entitled 1066 and All Saxon, on the premise that William lost at Hastings, and the language developed from the Anglo-Saxon roots without admixture of Latin. I am particularly fond of the old learning-house neckband, myself.

Jennings also chronicled the philosophy of Resistentialism, based on the premise that Things are Against Us. Which I should probably talk about at a later date.