Sunday, March 23, 2008


Trolling the internet for mentions of oneself, as one inevitably does, can be both rewarding and disheartening....

Here's ONE review of my new story, written after I hadn't done a new short story in seven years:

In “An Alien Heresy” by S. P. Somtow, Inquisitor Jean Lenclud is called to the French village of Tiffauges where he meets two unexpected things: the first is his illegitimate son, Guillaume, and the second, an odd, green humanoid in the cellar who claims to be from the stars and seeking his way home.

Somtow’s depiction of the mindset of the Inquisition is brilliant, never descending into facile clichés of torture-obsessed fanatics. His portrayal of Jean as a man struggling against his faith is made all the more poignant by the presence of his former sin, in the person of Guillaume, and the decisions Jean has to make concerning both his son and the alien. The depiction of such an alien mindset makes for quite an uncomfortable story, but ultimately a rewarding one. Recommended.

And here's ANOTHER: An Alien Heresy -- Somtow (Sucharatkul) -- beautifully written cliche, absolutely nothing new and with an ending that was both a complete downer and, being totally predictable and without the least surprise to it, a pain in the ass. Why did I bother? I gave up on Sucharatkul long ago. His stuff is beautifully written and a total waste of time.

It's good to know that people still disagree about me....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Age Passes

When I found out yesterday that Arthur Clarke had died, I realized that the Holy Trinity had departed this earth. I mean, in the 60s, we always spoke of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke as a sort of three-in-one and one-in-three. Clarke was the only one I didn't know personally, though I did correspond with him once. (Ray Bradbury was a quasi-member of the trinity, though a little suspect to many of us diehard fans because he could actually write, and because one had a strange suspicion that it wasn't really science fiction....)

Apart from the sudden realization that my autographed first edition of The Fountains of Paradise was now worth a lot more money, I can't say I'm too delighted at my childhood's end. I think it should just go on and on forever.

In a couple of days, my fiftieth book will officially be out. It's called OPUS FIFTY. Well, I did sort of get the idea from Isaac Asimov's OPUS 100, but I figured I would be dead before I could produce a book by that title.

If anyone happens to be in the Siam Paragon on Thursday, March 27 (the Paragon being, of course, the center of the universe) between 6 - 8 pm, drop into Asia Books ... I'll be there, and so will the book....

Sunday, March 16, 2008


To my astonishment, my mother found a large box of my material in storage, books, letters, and even a manuscript from the years 1969-70. It includes school essays, letters from my friends, an entire book of handwritten poems which I had completely forgotten about, and even a bank statement which shows that at one point I possessed the princely sum of one pound four shillings and tuppence. There are all these letters from my school friends, and even an invitation card to the first party I ever got drunk at.

Further to my astonishment, I was chatting with my nephew Guy, who goes to my old school, and he told me that four 14-year-old Etonians are in trouble for roughing up and sexually assaulting a young girl in the playing fields (yes, the same fields on which the battle of Waterloo was supposedly won.) The gang of Etonians called themselves "The Posse".

This piece of news, coupled with these ancient pieces of correspondence from Etonians in 1970, prompted me to seriously wonder what the world is coming to.

I mean, back in those mediaeval times, one would have thought a group of 14 year old Etonians would be too busy sexually assaulting each other to inflict themselves on anyone else ... although I suppose there was a time it when it was positively de rigeur for the upper classes to go around randomly raping the local peasantry. Still, by the 1960s, all that was definitely frowned upon, what. And "the posse", indeed. I'd like to see them last five minutes in the hood.

Meanwhile, back to my personal correspondence from those dark times, it amazes me that Etonians of the late 1960s habitually used classical allusions, pretentious archaisms, and elaborately thought-out metaphors in their letters to each other (well, to me, at least). Was it a kindler, gentler time?

My old poems are another matter as well. I find them exquisitely embarrassing. I think I will put off burning them for a few days, however. Perhaps I'll even print one in this blog.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beauty and Sadness

So I found myself making my way toward the Grand Palace at about eleven o'clock at night, knowing that the nightly service for HRH The Princess doesn't end until about midnight. It was a very still evening and the palace deserted except for the perpetual honor guard. The palace brilliantly lit, the evening service only attended by about six people, all people who loved the princess very much, I think. Incredible chanting … these monks are the Jascha Heifetzes of Buddhist chanting, with virtuoso trills, portamenti, and other peculiar vocal effects, and frighteningly in tune....

HRH The Princess lies behind an impressive façade; there's gold everywhere, and a brand new seven-tiered umbrella signifying her posthumous elevation to an even higher rank, yet the coffin itself, concealed from public view, is elegant in its simplicity, seeming more in character with how HRH was in life. In Thailand one should not really cry at funeral services, but I cannot help myself. There is a stately beauty to this chanting that takes you to a place far outside the tangible world.

Outside the throne room, on the grounds right outside the royal pavilion, there are about a hundred wreaths on display. These have all been offered by the rajasakuls, or royal families, whose surnames indicate some level of royal blood. The Sucharitkul wreath is there, too, but it's the only one not marked as a rajasakul, but instead as "rajinikul" ... that's because our family has contributed a line of queens to the present dynasty, starting with the reign of the Fourth Rama. It's curious to see this wreath; I had a photo taken with it as you can see above.

Today I opened the file of all the faxes that have gone back and forth between myself and HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana, many of them in her own handwriting. It was curiously moving to see them all and to realize how much she cared about every little aspect of the classical music world. Perhaps, one day, this correspondence will see publication.

I recently made (with the help of contributions from friends and relatives) a new recording of the "Galyani Symphony". I hope to release it in due course. The orchestra played really brilliantly. But listening to the recording (still unedited) makes me sad....