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Thursday, 24 March 2011

June 2002: back from Europe

Rushing right along there, June saw me back from my travels, but I am only slowly retrofitting some pics.

June 20, 2002

I did a radio interview today with Margaret Throsby. (Afternote: In the process of doing that talk, I mentioned the delightful Arthur Burrage, and in early August, I had a letter from him, thanking me for recalling his time as an ABC announcer.

June 19, 2002

I did one radio interview today at Radio East Sydney, with another at the ABC tomorrow, one on the weekend, and about four next week. The good part is that only people who like the look of the book will bother — so I am getting a bit of a buzz from it, but what about when the reviews come in? Ah well, if they are bad, I will recall Sibelius, who observed rather acidly that nobody ever erected a statue to a critic (and try not to recall that nobody has ever erected one to me, either!).

June 15, 2002

This statue at Gallipoli commemorates a
brave and decent bloke, a Turk, who
strode out into No-Man's Land, picked up
a wounded Brit, and carried him back to his own lines.

Yes, a big gap, there. I have just got back from overseas, mainly gathering material for the book on rockets. The battlefields of Gallipoli (pictures here and a better set here)* where rockets would have made a difference, the walls of Istanbul/Constantinople, the plains of Poland, Kepler's haunts in Prague, where he wrote the first science fiction novel about space travel (Somnium), the plains of Poland where V2 rockets were tested, Dresden, some parts of which are only now being rebuilt. Then it was on to Ireland where the Duke of Wellington lived (he hated rockets, but is central to my story).Budapest failed to work as a source (though an excellent place), but Wellington material in Ireland made up for it.

Statue of Major George Armistead,
the commandant at the fort.
Then on to Washington DC for the Library of Congress, and a chat to some geophysicists, and a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, then down to Baltimore with assistance from Kim Klein, a most excellent friend at the Washington Post, so I could see where the line "the rocket's red glare" comes from in the US national anthem.

After that, it was off to Worcester Massachusetts to look through the papers of rocket pioneer Robert Hutchings Goddard, so I could see how he fended off spies, and then to Sacramento California to talk to retired rocket chemists and engineers. I would not have had all that if a good friend, Theta Brentnall, had not been able to set it up for me. Aspiring writers are advised to cultivate friends!

Home today to find a small feature on Bittersweet in the magazine section of The Australian. The book is now released, and I await the first reviews with some trepidation. I have a schedule of radio interviews for the next few weeks. Writing may be fun, but to make it work, you have to be willing to go out and talk about it . . . as I said, you have to be a bit of an egomaniac to be a writer, so the talking is no great burden. In the US, I encountered a cable channel, CSPAN-2, which offers talks and readings by writers, sponsored by bookshops and videotaped for replay.

Not all is brightness: among the parcels of books and papers I have been sending home to myself was one that I had not sent: a package of copies of two of my children's books which have been remaindered. Seeing a book remaindered, taken out of circulation, is a real blow to any writer. Seeing two remaindered at once is cruel indeed. Still, they had five or six years in print, and will have touched a few minds — and some copies will probably be used for another five years or so, until they wear out and are discarded.

*About those Gallipoli pictures: they aren't credited, but they are mine. I have the full-size (not all that large, given that they were taken in 2002) copies that I can provide.  I am generally happy to grant permission to anybody seeking to use them, and given that so many people gave their lives there, I'm not in the least bit interested in taking money for them. Contact me!

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