Monday, June 15, 2009

Stamps, Bookburning and Depth of Field

Just a quick one to let everyone know (particularly people in the UK) that, as the Telegraph just reminded me, the Dave McKean mythical creature stamps go on sale on Tuesday the 16th. So they are on sale now.

If you go to

It will take you to the page where you can learn about the stamps, the various things the royal mail has for sale (presentation packs, postcards etc) and where you can try to buy them. You may succeed. (I didn't, and have, grumpily, given up trying for the night.) The secret of putting in phone numbers it will recognise is at

You can read the little stories (or sketches or vignettes) that I wrote to go with the stamps online for now at

They are printed in the "presentation packet", very beautifully.

Here's the one that goes with the stamp above:

The native dragons of the British Isles, called wyrms, had poisonous breath and coiled snakelike around hills. They could not fly or breathe fire. They demanded oxen or maidens. They grew slowly, ate rarely and slept much.

Local species can be fragile: the new dragons, the firedrakes, came south with the Norsemen, crossed the stormy seas with the Saxons, accompanied the Crusaders back from the hot lands in the centre of the world. Nature can be cruel, and soon the wyrms were gone, their bones turned to stone.

The new ones spread, alien and invasive, until the time came for them to lay their eggs. Dragons nest on golden treasure, but British gold was hard to find, and soon they slipped away, another species that came and flourished and dwindled once again. A handful of dragons hung on, half-starved in the Welsh wilderness, until time and the wet winters extinguished their fires. They went, like the wolf or the beaver; and they exit from the pages of history, pursued by a cave bear.

Meanwhile, I learned in the Guardian today that

... a group of Christians in Wisconsin has launched a legal claim demanding the right to publicly burn a copy of a book for teenagers which they deem to be "explicitly vulgar, racial [sic], and anti-Christian".

The offending book is Francesca Lia Block's Baby Be-Bop, a young adult novel in which a boy, struggling with his homosexuality, is beaten up by a homophobic gang. The complaint, which according to the American Library Association also demands $120,000 (£72,000) in compensatory damages for being exposed to the book in a display at West Bend Community Memorial Library, was lodged by four men from the Christian Civil Liberties Union.

Their suit says that "the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library," and that it contains derogatory language that could "put one's life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike."
The sad thing is that these twerps are wasting the time and money of a town and its librarians with a nuisance suit. Well, that and giving sane Christians a bad name while doing their best to widdle all over the first amendment. You don't burn books. And, well, you don't sue for your right to burn a library book you don't like. (And that's not just because if you win, that means that people you don't like now have the right to burn your books.)

(I'm not just saying this because if their mental and emotional well-being was that damaged by the proximity of a Francesca Lia Block book, I'm just happy they didn't pick up and read the library's copy of American Gods; their eyes would have been fried and their lives put so far in jeopardy that their nearest and dearest would have been ordering caskets before the end of Chapter One.) (Other books it is good that they didn't read would include Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and the Reverend Jen's Live Nude Elf.)

Glad to see PEN America responding. (Pen deserves your support. You don't have to be an author or an essayist or editor or playwright or translator to join: you can get an associate membership:

As I said on twitter, whatever side the "Christian Civil Liberties Union" is on, I'm now on the other one.


Finally, for those who would like to learn about taking better photographs while at the same time seeing pictures of my awesome dog, here's Kyle Cassidy to tell you about depth of field.

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