“If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again,” by Zen Cho

Yes, still here. Sort of… Anyway, I finally remembered to download the Hugo voting packet last night. 🙂

Byam isn’t a dragon. Yet. It takes at least a thousand years, and if pesky humans see you and don’t believe you’re a dragon, you won’t be. The only good thing about them is that they’re useful for a second opinion on questions about the Way. And by the time you’re into your third millennium you might find one who doesn’t run away screaming at the first opportunity…

This is a lovely novelette drawing on Korean mythology; sweet, hilarious, and with a joyful ending even amongst sadness. It left me feeling happy, and glad that its well-deserved Hugo nomination brought it to my attention.

Available free at the Barnes&Noble SF&F blog.

There’s also a short sequel at Cho’s own website.

First Thoughts – Ohto Rook pocket fountain pen

It is possible that I have too many fountain pens. I did not, however, until very recently own a pocket fountain pen; and that one is sufficiently expensive that I’m a little reluctant to take it out of the house. So when I was browsing the clearance section at Cult Pens and saw an Ohto pocket pen at £6 I decided that I Wanted That.

Ohto Rook fountain pen in green and black colorway, capped
Ohto Rook in green and black colorway, capped

This thing is tiny. According to the info at Cult Pens, it’s 93 mm long when closed, and expands to 142 mm long when you remove the cap and put it on the other end. As for the width, it’s a snug fit around a short international cartridge. It’s much more like putting a nib on a cartridge than putting a cartridge in a pen. It’s so tiny it will even fit in the #pockets in women’s clothing with room to spare. If you’re really in a hurry and can’t be bothered to post the cap, you have around 86 mm of pen, which is getting a bit small even for my small hands, but is usable for scribbling a few words. Cap and barrel are aluminium, making it very light for a metal pen; only 11 g.

Ohto Rook fountain pens, one posted and one capped.
Ohto Rook fountain pens, one posted and one capped.

So, the scribbling words bit. I’d poked around the internet for reviews, and one thing that bugged several people was the cartridge that comes with it; apparently a black ink but more like grey. I have plenty of quality international cartridges knocking around so fed it with a Graf von Faber-Castell deep sea green instead. I did not wash the pen through and dry it first, which has a bearing on the writing feel when I first started using it. It was skipping a lot and feeling very scratchy, with a distinct and tiny sweet spot. I did wonder was it a bad nib or was it just manufacturing oils, but after a week or so of occasional use it smoothed out quite a lot – still a bit scratchy but no skipping.

It would probably have helped to prime it properly rather than running the nib under water and then scribbling for a couple of pages, but to do that I would have had to fill a thin convertor and stick it in the back of the barrel, push through some ink, and then take the convertor out again, because this thing is far too short to take a convertor as its actual ink supply. I did not think of the “and take it out again” bit until afterwards, but may try that on the second pen I bought.

Detail of Ohto Rook fountain pen nib
Detail of Ohto Rook fountain pen nib

The pen comes from Japan but the nib is unbranded and marked “iridium point” on the green/black one I bought and “iridium point Germany” on the orange/silver, along with a simple but pretty engraved pattern. It’s apparently a Japanese medium or European fine, so it’s going to be inclined to scratchiness anyway. I can live with it, and it still manages a little line variation. I can’t tell how easy it would be to swap it out, but at that price you’re not losing a lot of money if you mangle it. Ditto if you feel like adjusting the nib.

Ohto Rook fountain pen, disassembled to show the parts
Ohto Rook fountain pen, disassembled to show the parts

It’s a snap cap and very much designed to be posted, so it’s unlikely to scratch the barrel. When snapped closed it’s solidly seated and needs a good tug to get it off again, but not so for posting. It turns out that you need to post the cap firmly. If you do not it will fly off the barrel at the slightest provocation. You also need to make sure the little piece at the end of the barrel that unscrews to allow you to change the cartridge is screwed on very firmly, because otherwise it will unscrew itself and go for a flying lesson along with the main cap. Ask me how I know…

It has a clip. I generally don’t have a use for clips, but this one seems tight and springy.

One thing that I suspect is going to get really irritating is that Ohto miniaturised it by having the lower barrel almost the length of the cartridge, which means only the bottom 6 mm or so of the cartridge is visible once seated. Which makes it very difficult to tell when it’s near to empty. And you can’t carry a spare cartridge in the barrel…

Summary:

It’s tiny. Tiny enough for #pockets. And yet big enough to write with comfortably.

It’s very pretty.

The nib’s not great but is usable.

You need to be careful about posting.

Better not care about knowing how much ink is left.

I’d have been unimpressed with this at the RRP of £13, but like it enough at £6 that I went and got the orange and silver colourway a few days after buying the green and black version. They’re both pretty. 🙂

Stationery review – Le Yogi writing slope

I’ve been intending to post this for the last two months… Never mind.

I have neck problems and instructions from the physiotherapist to remember to use a good posture, so went in search of a writing slope to use at home. It needed to be relatively light, big enough to hold an A4 page in both portrait and landscape orientation, sturdy enough for an adult to use, not require me to lean hard on the paper with my non-writing hand to pin it down, and have a lip to catch any escaping paper sliding down. This ticks almost all the boxes, for a reasonable price as such things go. The one thing it misses is “portrait A4”. The surface is big enough, but there is a pen rest groove cut into the slope 2 to 3 cm below the top, and the top edge of an A4 sheet resting on the bottom lip will lie over this — something to note if you want to write/colour to the very edge of the page.

It’s made of a sturdy sheet of acrylic folded into shape, with a nonslip silicon strip on both surfaces in contact with the table, and another along the bottom edge of the writing service as a lip, thick enough to hold a colouring book in place but thin enough not to press too hard into my arm. I’m mostly using it to write on A5 paper, and finding it much better for my neck than writing with the paper flat on the table. It will also take the weight of an iPad 2, which is handy when I’m playing with electronic jigsaws. The only fault I found is that the gloss surface reflects overhead lights. Mine’s black but it’s also available in white, which may or may not be better for the glare problem. For me it’s worth every penny of the 20 pounds I paid. Oh, and you get an email with a link to a downloadable colouring book. 🙂

Amazon UK

Stationery review – Schneider refills

In the never ending quest to tidy my room, I decided to have a cull of the pen herd. I have many, many pens of various types accumulated over the years, some dating back to when I was at university [mumble] years ago. I can tell, because they’re in the biscuit tin I used as a pen case.

I was going to be ruthless about throwing out the ones that didn’t work anymore, but some of the ancient and venerable have sentimental value, or are promo pens in a barrel style that I find very comfortable to use, so I set about investigating the availability of refills.

First port of call was the Cult Pens website, a wondrous cavern of everything pen. It turned out they were having a three for two special deal on Schneider products, and Schneider make All the Refills, or pretty close to it. I already had a Schneider disposable courtesy of a sample in a previous order, so I knew they made decent cheap pens. Cue buying binge…

I needed a selection of refills, and I haven’t had a chance to do much with most of them yet, but so far — nice refills. They write smoothly and don’t need much pressure to get them started. I really like the Slider 755, which is a Parker style G2 filled with Schneider’s ViscoGlide hybrid ink. It writes very smoothly with no skipping and almost no pressure once it gets going, but can write on gloss paper without smearing even if it gets wet. It’s described as combining the best features of ballpoint and gel pens. It’s moderately expensive but I think well worth it if it continues to perform like this. I do love my fountain pens for not needing any pressure to write, but this refill comes close and is waterproof to boot.

The refills are all clearly labelled with brand, model number, colour and tip size, even the tiny D1 format multipen refills. This might not sound important, but when you’ve just opened an envelope full of miscellaneous loose refills, it’s very useful for matching refill to pen. Definitely for my “buy again” list.

You can find the Schneider range in lots of pen shops, and as of the time of writing there is still a three for two offer at Cult Pens for the entire range.