The Comichaus: the new indie British monthly has now reached an impressive eight issues. It’s the flagship comic title for the Comichaus indie website, which wants to be the Netflix of indie comics.

At first glance the site itself is not as impressive as it might be, though. No genre categories, and my initial search of the site for the phrase “science fiction” was not very promising: it had no results at all.

I see they also have a new app, launched at the end of November 2017, for a £3-a-month subscription streaming service for indie comic books. It’s an “all you can eat” pricing model. Sadly the Amazon store says it’s not compatible with my new Fire 10″ HD, and it doesn’t show up at all on the Store on my tablet. I suspect what Amazon mean is it competes too hard with the Amazon-owned Comixology.


Spoilers: it’s in the bag

I like this idea. Bryan Talbot’s new graphic novel, the latest in the Grandville series, has an unusual anti-spoiler device. A black plastic wrapper and seal prevents the reader from flipping though to certain pages at the back of the book, and thus spoiling the surprise…

Perhaps we need a digital equivalent. Tick a box on your Amazon Kindle account, and authors who put a snippet of anti-spoiler code in their ebooks / graphic novels / audiobooks get their story protected from ‘jump-ahead’ readers.

That might also be accompanied by a code-of-conduct for troll-reviewers on Amazon: you hide your plot spoilers in a cloaking code-wrapper, and those who don’t want to read huge spoilers don’t have to. It would be in Amazon’s financial interests to do that, as if the plot is spoiled in a big way, someone is then far less likely to buy the product.

Office 2019

I’m pleased to hear that Microsoft has announced a proper standalone desktop Office 2019, and for a one-time payment. The preview version is due in mid 2018. Very welcome, especially for those who use Word daily, and hopefully there will be all sorts of new ebook friendly features.

Maybe Office 2019 will even be available in a box/USB, for those lacking the capacity to download Gbs of software and the inevitable patches. Which these days still amounts to a surprising amount of people in the USA. In fact, it’s kind of difficult not to see the Office 2019 announcement as some sort of sweetener for President Trump, aimed at swinging the ongoing tussle over Microsoft’s plan to bring decent flat-rate broadband to America’s rural millions ($8-$12bn+) vs. phone company cell-phone towers ($20bn+++) doing the same. Trump must be aware of how much a top-flight desktop productivity suite still means to productivity in much of the USA, for people who can’t or won’t use the Cloud.

Instapaper: “there’s definitely something wrong…”

Mobile Industry Review tests “Pocket vs. Instapaper”. I’m seriously looking at Paper, as I’m starting to loose count of how many times I’ve seen this frustrating notice from Instapaper, when trying to save out a Kindle .mobi collection of articles. The worst of this is, the wording suggests the user has done something wrong. When any regular user knows that it’s Instapaper that’s failed. If Instapaper can’t keep their servers online, and insults their users during such failures, then why bother with it when there are alternatives?

Amazon Global Store

Need a book that’s on but not on Amazon now have a searchable Global Store giving UK customers access to goods from around the world, with overseas shipping, tax and UK customs charges all pre-calculated. It’s pretty empty at present, though, with no search results at all for simple things like “tablet” or “jacket” or “book”. Seriously Amazon, don’t do the mega-publicity thing until the store is up. But it may improve in the future and, by encouraging U.S. sellers to sell outside the U.S., give access to otherwise unobtainable paper books.


The core Dune trilogy – reading order with extras

I’ve recently become interested in reading the Dune series. In the first half of the 1980s I read nearly all important science fiction that had appeared before about 1985, but there were just a few big classics that I don’t remember ever quite getting around to reading — such as the Dune trilogy, Stranger in a Strange Land, and Atlas Shrugged. I guess, being just a teenager back then, I was probably put off by leftist fanzine editors and critics, who had political axes to grind against such books. Looking back, and looking through the archives, I can now see that there was a lot of that sort of politicised sentiment around back then. In that respect it was fortunate that I came to Tolkien early, via The Hobbit, so such critics didn’t put me off from enjoying The Lord of the Rings.

Possibly I was also put off Dune due to David Lynch’s dire movie of Dune, which I saw on release in December 1984. But by then it was too late, as I ceased to read science-fiction after about 1986. I felt that I’d read everything that was ‘worth reading’, and wasn’t really interested in early cyberpunk. That meant that I later missed gems such as Snow Crash (1992) and the Red Mars trilogy (1993-96), until Anathem (2008) brought me back to a (highly selective) reading of literary science fiction, and I did a bit of catching up.

Anyway, thirty years later… I’ve recently decided that, for one of my ‘catch-ups’, I might like to have a try at Dune this summer or autumn. But… I find that it’s one of those book series that has been franchised and flogged to death, over the intervening decades. So there’s now a whole lot of guff to be sifted, before one can discern what the originals actually were. Such guff has included some dire movies, two so-so TV mini-series from Syfy, and several truck loads of (reputedly rather poor) prequel/sequel books.

So for the benefit of other science fiction readers, here’s the core of the ‘original’ Dune — so far as I can make out through the smog of marketing and later unpublished add-ons unearthed from Herbert’s filing-cabinets.

Reading order / story-order for the core Dune story by Frank Herbert:

1. Book 1: Dune. The unabridged audiobook reading by George Guidall is very widely said to be the best one to listen to. Also, note that the Scott Brick audiobook version is abridged.

2. The first book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.

3. Interlude: “The Road to Dune”. A short work by Frank Herbert that sits between the first two novels, to be found in his short story collection Eye. There appears to be no audiobook of this story, so it would need to be read in ebook form.

4. Book 2. Dune Messiah. The unabridged audiobook reading by Scott Brick et al. is said to be the most listen-able.

5. The second book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.

6. Book 3. Children of Dune. The unabridged audiobook reading by Scott Brick et al. is said to be the most listen-able.

7. The third book has a “Deleted Scenes & Chapters from…” ebooks floating around the Internet, which might be looked at after the novel.

8. Book 4. God Emperor of Dune. It’s by Frank Herbert, but is said to be a rather depressing and dour coda to the original trilogy. It also departs heavily from the style of the core trilogy, and is set some 3,000 years after the end of the 1967-76 trilogy. As such, I suspect I’ll be happy with just the original trilogy.

There is also:

* Dune Encyclopedia. A weighty 1984 book, sanctioned by Frank Herbert and with an introduction by him. The later, lesser, sequel/prequel books are said to have departed from the facts in this Encyclopedia.

So as far as I can make out, that’s what someone undertaking the core of Herbert’s original story, in the order it should be heard/read, would want to have cued up.

Bulk delete for your Kindle 3’s “Archived Items” folder

If, like me, you have a trillion Instapaper editions lingering as useless ghost files in your Kindle 3’s “Archived Items” folder, it’s annoying that you can only delete them one by one. You need a Bulk Delete option, which Amazon doesn’t provide. Pepa’s Check and Delete to the rescue! It works perfectly, as a simple browser bookmarklet.