Saturday, April 30, 2011

More from Angkor Thom

The real heyday of this city lasted just over a hundred years, the whole of the 12th century, when it sustained anywhere from 80,000 to 150,000 people. At the beginning of that century, London had about 18,000.
An entrance gate through the wall
Offerings at one of the ancient statues
900 years later, still standing
Bayon Temple, the heart of Angkor Thom. That's us...
How we know a little about Khmer life in the 12th century

Note the lady with the tortoise which is biting the butt of the man in front...

Another example of present and past Buddhism
These towers were apparently used as the base for tightropes and acrobatics

Friday, April 29, 2011

A City called Angkor Thom

More from our Cambodian trip.
We watched the cormorants flying in to roost
Angkor Thom was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. It was surrounded by a moat and a wall and contained numerous temples and a Royal Palace going back to first half of the tenth century. 
(Think about that for a moment! That was the end of the period usually referred to as the Dark Ages in European history.)
G&Ts beside the canal

Although the foundations and an enclosing wall around the palace with entry towers have been identified, many buildings, probably constructed of wood, have gone.   

 A long causeway leading to each entry tower is flanked by a row of 54 stone figures on each side – demons on the right and gods on the left-to make a total of 108 mythical beings guarding the city of Angkor Thom.
We took an evening boat ride on the canal
 The city is a square, each side three kilometers (1.9 miles) long, with an 8 meters (26 feet) high wall and a moat with  100meters (328 feet) wide.
Daughter and family

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Swancon/Natcon was SO good.

If you weren't there, I'm sorry. You missed something really, really special.

There were, I think, four main reasons:

The venue - the Hyatt has a big circular open lounge in the middle and all the rooms used were nearby, with the result that everyone passed through this central area on their way to and from panels/art exhibition/dealers' room etc. That way you couldn't help but meet everyone sooner or later.
The guests - they were fabulous: Sean Williams, Justina Robson, Ellen Datlow and Sarah Xu.
The size of the con - just right for intimacy but not small enough to be incestuous.
The friendliness of the SFF folk, of West Australia in particular, but of all attendees in general.

Glitches in organisation? Sure, aren't there always? But everyone was cool and none of it mattered much. Everyone was having way too much fun!

I didn't take photos, but have a look at Cat Sparks'. See here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Swancon/Natcon here I come!

Tomorrow I leave for Swancon/Natcon. I leave around midnight and get in at about 5.30 a.m. I shall be at the lunch for guests, and at the con in the afternoon. Note that Thursday night is FREE.  So if you are uncertain about whether cons are for you, come along. I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Barring changes,  I have a panel that night:

Thursday 9.30 p.m. 
"Seeing Green - natural imagery in fantastic fiction" with Kaaron Warren and Kate Eltham.

Mind you I will have had no sleep, and may not make too much sense...

My only other panel (so far anyway) is on:

Sunday at 3 p.m. 
"Writing Abroad" with Kaaron Warren, Cristy Burne, Simon Brown

I will also be at the Ditmars on Sunday, at the lunch for guests on Thursday, the Orbit cocktails on Sunday, hanging around the bar...

Please, feel free to chat. We don't have to have met before. And if you have an online name I would recognise, please tell me. My memory for names is awful and I sometimes have trouble connecting two separate personas, i.e. online and actual.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Temples and Trees

As an environmentalist, I always get a bit of a kick when nature wins out over man. Nowadays it doesn't happen too often. 
At temples like Ta Prohm in Siem Reap, a thousand years or so has wrought a few changes, and the result is a magnificent juxtaposition of arboreal determination and not entirely immovable stonework...
This one I particularly love, with Buddha still managing a smile...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

And here's the Australian cover for Stormlord's Exile

Note: all three editions are due out at the same time 
(available the last days of July, or first days of August).
UK Orbit cover

Australian Voyager cover
US Orbit cover

Detail from the original artwork

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Which do you prefer?

 I am not sure that either of these are final, but this is how they appear on Amazon at the moment. One is for the US edition (on the right), and the other is for UK.

Three more months, guys!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Temples of Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived in Siem Reap in the afternoon, but still managed to see several temples by nightfall, because my daughter had pre-booked guide, driver and van for the seven of us – surely the ultimate way to see the area. If you don’t have a guide, you certainly need to do an immense amount of reading beforehand to make sense of what you are seeing.

On our first day in Siem Reap we visited, among others, the fascinating temple of Banteay Kdei, a labyrinth of buildings that open up one after the other just when you thought you’d reached the end. This place is famous for its dancing girl wall carvings.

The first thing you have to understand...
...about "Angkor Wat" is that it is just one temple. People say, “We are going to see Angkor Wat”, but in fact what you do is go to Siem Reap and see dozens of temples (there are something like 200 of them around). Most of them have at least one different thing to offer of interest that the large structure of Angkor Wat does not. They are all from different periods, built over a period of five hundred years or so when the Khmers were the on the top of the heap in a cultural and empire-building building sense.
The era ended when they moved the capital from Angkor Thom to Phnom Penh in the early 15th century, possibly because their agricultural system was inadequate for the population at a time when they were being constantly raided by the Siamese.
The second thing you have to understand is that ...
...many of these temples were not finished, as the current monarch had different plans to the previous one. Not all were built as temples to the same thing – it all  depended whether the guy in charge happened to be Buddhist or Hindu. Nowadays, as the country is overwhelmingly Buddhist (odd, then, that the Khmer Rouge were the very antithesis of Buddhist philosophy, the most vicious anti-religious killers of anything and anybody), you will find present day Buddhists worshipping inside these temples today, even when they may be surrounded by Hindu icons.
Granddad and grandson
 The third thing you have to understand is that ...
...some temples are surrounded by walls, which enclosed a huge area of which only part was the actual temple. Other essential parts were the library, or even multiple libraries (separate for monks and commoners), armories, places for dancers and for warriors. Wooden buildings that housed these populations have all gone; only the stone public buildings remain.
And when you get tired of temples, there's always leaves.
These leaves are from dipterocarps, their winged seeds designed to spin down like torpedoes.
The fourth thing you have to understand is that the problem of restoration – or even of just managing the status quo – is way beyond the ability of Cambodia, and even with UN supported projects it’s an uphill battle. Nature loves to encroach, and time tumbles even things built of stone.
Note the way the stones have been tied together by restorers
Note the way the roots wind their way through the ruins...