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victoriansensationorthesp48102_fWell, where to start with this one? Victorian Sensation is packed full of interesting detail about what our Victorian forebears found sensational, the role of the press and what all of this tells us about their society and our own. As the author says (and I full agree) when we talk about Victorians we often really mean middle-class Victorians, but they of course were only one social layer in a complicated world.

The book covers a whole variety of topics that Victorians found sensational (I really am going to have to find another word for this!) and it’s not so very different from the kinds of topics that the tabloid press in particular covers these days, namely the Royal Family, political scandals, sex scandals, morality, murders and celebrities from sport and entertainment. The area that seems to me to be different is the sensation novel and the sensation drama, but I suppose if you substitute soap operas and reality TV for those then again the similarities are obvious.

These days, when it seems there is nothing that can’t be discussed, it’s interesting to look back at a period where so many subjects were off-limits, and shocking in a way to see how people who raised some of these difficult issues (child prostitution, the indignities heaped on women under the enforcement of the Contagious Diseases Acts), were vilified, especially if they were women themselves. There was definitely, again among the middle class, a tendency not to want to face up to many of the things that were happening around them.

One of the great joys of this book are the quotes from the press, this being my absolute favourite: “the particulars published in several daily papers have been so broadly stated that it has been impossible to leave copies of these papers within reach of young people or anyone having the faintest pretension to be considered an honest woman.” Lovely stuff.

There is a very good chapter on the impact of the sensation novel, looking particularly at Wilkie Collins and Mary Braddon, well worth reading, and if you are at all interested in the Victorian period you should certainly give this book a try.

outofworldSo Carl is hosting this mini challenge as part of his Sci-Fi Experience and to honour Dewey. The idea is to read at least one sci-fi short story and post about it on his official page. I read three stories from an old anthology that we’ve had kicking around the house for ages, namely The Mammoth Book of Best New SF 13, which covers stories first published in 1999 (wow, last century, remember that?), and therefore cannot be found on Amazon for me to link to (sorry). I read:

1. Suicide Coast by M John Harrison – I found this quite difficult and bleak and I’m not entirely sure that I fully understood it; it’s about gaming and rock climbing I think, and what’s real and what isn’t. Perhaps I just wasn’t in a receptive frame of mind to understand the subtleties?

Anyway, I wasn’t put off, and moved on to:

2. How We Lost The Moon: A True Story By Frank W Allen by Paul J McAuley – I like McAuley’s work though I haven’t read as much as I should have. This story does what it says on the tin; Frank is a witness to and participant in the events that saw an experiment on the Moon go terribly wrong and we, sort of, lost the Moon. Very enjoyable.

3. Evermore by Sean Williams – a story of  crippled space-ship crewed by entitities based on the minds of real people on Earth but who technically don’t really exist, and in any case aren’t really speaking to each other. So what happens when something needs to change?

There are a couple of other stories in this anthology that I might save for another time, but all in all this was an interesting experience.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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January 2009