Friday, December 29, 2006

Bye Max.

Fuck shit cunt bollocks and buggeration gets the swearing out of the way. In the weeks before christmas Max started having epileptic fits again and the only solution to this was to up the dosage of his medication (£40 a month that costs). A few days before christmas we took him for a walk, but he was weak and his back legs kept giving way. He only managed a circuit of a nearby sports field and three times I had to lift him from a sitting position back onto his feet. A subsequent examination by the vet showed him to have a healthy heart and to apparently be quite fit, so the vet gave him an injection to help out with his back legs and was going to supply anti-inflammatories for the problem.

However, on christmas eve he could hardly manage to get up and seeing him anxious to go for his walk yet his legs giving way on the slipper floor of the home’s front hall was heart-breaking. He went quickly downhill from then and further blood tests have revealed that his liver is failing. This is one of the penalties of his spending the best part of his life on anti-epileptics. Because of this failure the drugs are no longer as effective and giving him anti-inflammatories would only worsen his health.

The vet has advised the only option remaining to him and is calling round to the old people’s home to put him down this afternoon. It’s horrible, but stepping back it’s easy to see that Max is a luckier resident of that home, since he has a final option that the others there don’t.

Merry christmas and a happy new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Neural Darwinism.

Now, I’ve always ascribed to the dictum ‘use it or lose it’. If you don’t use your muscles they become weaker and if you don’t use them at all, as in the case of someone wheelchair bound, they atrophy. Getting yourself out of breath expands the capacity of your lungs. Swimming, and particulary swimming underwater is especially good in this respect. Putting stress on your bones strengthens them. Those whose bones remain unstressed for a length of time, like astronauts, rapidly lose bone mass.

I’ve always thought that the same rules apply to the brain. If you don’t make any mental effort, your ability to make mental effort declines. I feel that this equally applies to those rather vague cognitive functions like imagination. And this article lays it all out very neatly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Books thus far.

Okay, Maynard1977 has asked me if I’ve got any more books coming out, so I’ll sum up where things are so far. My (available) books thus far published are:

Agent Cormac Series: 1.Gridlinked, 2.The Line of Polity, 3.Brass Man, 4.Polity Agent,

Stand alone: Cowl, Africa Zero, The Engineer ReConditioned, Prador Moon, Runcible Tales (chapbook of 6 short stories)

On Spatterjay: 1.The Skinner, 2.The Voyage of the Sable Keech.

Books of mine due to be published are: Hilldiggers – a standalone set in the Polity, Line War – number 5 in the agent Cormac series (the last one, I think), Prador Moon (British edition) and an as yet untitled collection of Polity short stories.

I think that’s about it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Legalize drugs.

What is it now? Six out of ten crimes are now drug-related. Knowing that the police now regard something like a playground row to be a ‘crime’ and ‘solving’ said crime can be added to their clear-up rate figures, I would guess that the other four of the ten are probably almost irrelevant. Likely they’re speeding, drink-driving or saying something unpleasant about T B Liar at a Labour party conference (i.e. terrorism).

So why not legalize drugs? Where are the minuses in this? With a ready cheap supply of drugs there’s a good chance the addicts won’t be mugging grannies or breaking into people’s houses to finance their habit, and with any luck will quickly off themselves. The organized criminals will probably be at a loose end and can focus more on supplying us with cheap booze and fags. Gordon Brown could whack a tax on heroin and crack. And all those disenfranchised farmers in Afghanistan can get back to work and make a tidy profit on this.
I suggest a new T-shirt line:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Snippet.

I found this on the Dawkin’s website courtesy of a comment by one Sancus:

“The association of modern atheism with Stalin and Mao has long got out of hand. I plead with anyone reading this to loudly stand against this association by revealing that Stalin and Mao are closer to religious figures than they are to modern atheists not just because of dogmatism, but because they share rejection of self-ownership.

It is the denial of the right for an individual to own herself that is the common and shared cause of both religious and Marxist injustices.”

Damned right.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hilldiggers Back Cover.

Ooh, shiny. I've just received the full dust jacket for Hilldiggers from Peter Lavery at Macmillan, (along with some more of the contents to check over). As well at the wonderful front cover picture we now have this from the back cover.

Serial Killer in Ipswich.

Oh dear, it seems we have a serial killer getting up to speed in Ipswich, which is about a three-quarter-hour drive up the A12 from where we live. Last weekend the discovery of two corpses warranted a couple of column inches in the papers about three pages in, now that the killer has bumped off five prostitutes in ten days the media is going into a feeding frenzy. I note that the BBC News anchorman is now at the scene and wonder if the higher-ups in that organization decided to send him, or if he threw his weight around to be in at the kill, so to speak.

One annoying aspect of this is the reporters going on at the police about guaranteeing people’s safety and speculating on how it’s possible for this killer to grab women from ‘under their noses’. Are they too stupid to realise that tens of thousands of cops in the area will not guarantee absolute safety? And that for a lot of the prostitutes there, getting cash for their next drug fix is more important than personal safety, and that lots of police in the area will rather cramp their style so they’ll try to avoid them to get hold of their next customer?

The area where the latest two bodies were discovered (Nacton) is one I know. A friend and workmate of mine used to live up there and I used to visit him. I wonder how he would have been feeling if he still lived there: single bloke living alone in his own house. Of course it’s just as likely that the killer is married with kids, like the Yorkshire Ripper (Caroline and I had a bet on how quickly that name would be mentioned. It was mentioned almost immediately.), and right now some wife is maybe thinking, ‘You never said where you were last night, I thought you were having an affair and now I wonder…’ Another theory posited by someone we know is that there isn’t one killer, that this is the result of some Kosovan gang trying to take control of the prostitution racket. Interestingly, when talking about the murders the police are quite meticulous about saying, ‘person or persons’.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Waffling.

Mmm, perhaps I need to do a little less ranting here, not to stop pissing people off, but to keep myself sane. Really, if you look for it, there’s enough in the media every day to get one frothing at the mouth. Perhaps the anger is rather like depression: it’s there first and then looks around for an excuse to exist.

Nice thoughts. I’m closing on 50,000 words of Line War and maybe I should deliver an early RSI warning: I think this is going to be a big one. I keep going in to writing say section of the story and come out the other side of it having not quite got there. Plenty of drama, but the aim I set out to achieve each time seems to take two sections. Also, at 50,000 words (which for me is usually more than a third of a book) the war itself has hardly got past the digging of trenches stage. I mean … I’ve only blown up one world for goodness sake and the death toll hasn’t moved into eight figures yet.
A hundred edited pages of Hilldiggers are behind me and more are on the way. I’ve had two reader’s reports on it and on the whole they’re good. Sales are looking good too. The hardback sales of Polity Agent are over half again those of Voyage of the Sable Keech, but then I’m finding that I’m getting more readers coming back for more in the Cormac sequence than I am with stuff set on Spatterjay, which was rather surprising.

What else? My weight hovers at about 12 stone, despite the fact that we’ve nearly polished off a barrel of homemade stout (this weekend I’ll be making five gallons of bitter), fitness seems good, despite the cigarettes and, really, I seem to be on top of everything. I just wish I had another set of hands and another brain to keep up with demand … note to those wannabes out there, if you really are aiming for publication success and not just pissing around, produce loads of stuff, loads, because if you do get there, it’ll all soon go.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Suffer the Children.

You know, it is unfortunate and horrible when a child is ill. It is unfortunate and horrible when anyone is ill. But why oh why are all sick children always ‘brave’?

Brave: Having or displaying courage, resolution, or daring; not cowardly or timid.

You act bravely or you act cowardly. Bravery is not bravery unless there is the option available to be cowardly – there’s an element of choice. A child who has had some awful illness resulting in numerous operations and perhaps the removal of a limb or two, doesn’t really have very much choice in the matter, and probably doesn’t have much of a clue about what is going on anyway. The doctor doesn’t go to the child and say, “Well, that leg is going to have to come off,” and the child doesn’t reply, “Go ahead doctor, I’ll hold the tourniquet and bite on this stick while you saw.” This perpetual pathetic misuse of the word ‘brave’ devalues it (just like the use of the word ‘hero’ to describe a football player).

Now, perhaps the mother and father will be able to say that their child has displayed courage throughout the trauma, and maybe that will be true despite the usual parental bias. Perhaps the hospital staff will have some say in this. But am I cynical in assuming that in our ‘inclusive equality-driven society’ that the kid who goes screaming and whining to the hospital is going to get the same ‘bravery’ award as the one who showed resolution and courage?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

NHS Come Dancing.

Oh bloody hell. It now seems the porkers of Britain will be able to get dance lessons on the NHS. After spending £2.5 million on ‘Local Exercise Action Pilot’ schemes, this sort of crap is what our Public Health Minister Caroline Flint has come up with. Well, excuse me, people are porky because they eat too much of the wrong food and don’t exercise enough. You didn’t need to spend £2.5 million to find that out or to find out what couch potatoes need to do to be more healthy. And spending money on giving these people dance lessons when others are dying in this country because there isn’t enough money to pay for the drugs they need (though of course this doesn’t apply to Scotland and Wales) is a travesty!

Monday, December 04, 2006

MP's Pay Rise.

Every now and again I’ll read something, blink, read it again, then listen for the theme music from The Twilight Zone playing in the background. I’d like to say that what I’ve just read beggars belief, but it doesn’t, it seems par for the course for the 646 twits in Parliament pretending to run this country. It’s just the normal ‘I’m sitting at the top of the heap so fuck you’ attitude of these lying, cheating, grasping, slobbering Orwellian swine.

These rancid turds claimed a total of £86,700,000 in expenses and office allowances last year, which averages £134,000 each. These 646 septic shitbags each cost us £726,000 a year for which they actually work (if it can be called that) for less than half a year. Their pay has risen by 37% since 1997. They get a £40,000 a year inflation-proof pension

AND NOW THEY WANT THEIR BASIC SALARY TO RISE FROM £60,277 BY 66% TO £100,000!!!

They are on £625 a day before expenses! With expenses they are on £1250! Will the expenses go down? Will they buggery. If they get their way these sodden lumps of fecal matter floating at the top of the parasitic public sector will be on £1500 a day – that’s just about the weekly minimum wage per hour!

Shit! Where is Guy Fawkes when we need him most!

Nuclear Innit.

T. B. Liar is apparently going to announce plans for a new generation of nuclear missile submarines but, as far as Trident is concerned, it seems his own party is divided on the issue, which basically means the far left CND pricks are getting all aeriated again. Our Trident missiles aren’t really ours anyway. Every six months or so they go back to America for an oil-change and an MOT and, frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the big red button in Number 10 is connected to another in the White House with the label ‘Approve?’ stuck underneath it.

But really, thinking in terms nuclear, hasn’t our Tone got some more pressing concerns? Isn’t it about time he really got his thumb out of his arse and allowed the building of more nuclear power stations? They are apparently a ‘green’ alternative to coal-fired power stations and are supported by James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory, who said that “Britain and the world could not reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the 60% scientists see is needed by 2050 without the help of nuclear power.”

But if you take a look at the Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace sites you’ll see that die-hards in those organisations are still looking for reasons to carry on hating anything containing the word ‘nuclear’. Apparently the 'CO2 emissions across the nuclear cycle are about 33% that of fossil-fuel plants.’ This is incredibly vague, and I guarantee doesn’t take into account CO2 production in mining coal and shipping it in from Russia, South Africa and even Australia, since we have so few working mines in this country now. A third also doesn’t seem too bad.

B. Liar, then, seems trapped between the powerful lobby of the green loonies and hard practicalities about the future of this country. But what does he care? He’s preparing to bugger off on well-paid lecture tours of America and leave everything in Brown’s sweaty hands. Or maybe I’m just underestimating the wizard of spin? Maybe he intends to get the nose-ringed greenies all frothing at the mouth about Trident, and safely out of the way protesting up at Faslane submarine base, while he slips through some legislation concerning nuclear power stations?

Interesting side-note here. One of the pictures here is of Bradwell nuclear power station, which is in the process of being decommissioned. At the same time, there were recent plans to build wind turbines in the same area (Dengie peninsular), but the plans were ditched after numerous protests by a group calling itself BATTLE. This group even created a simulation of what the turbines would look like (the other picture here). Similarly, there was talk of recommissioning the power station, and other NIMBYs in the area started writing ‘disgusted’ letters to the paper.

Really, it doesn’t matter what form of power generation is used, anywhere, there will still be some twat there waving a placard.

A little further note. I came across a good description of the usual ‘green’ AGW advocates, which those reading this have probably heard of, but is a new one to me. They are watermelons: green on the outside and red on the inside.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Max Again

For those of you who followed the Max saga, here's an update ... or rather a video clip of him from a week ago, eating far too many biscuits.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prador Moon Reviews

Other than to say thank you very much every now and again I don’t normally make any reply to reviews. Having seen quite a few of them now I know that every time I come across something negative in one review I can point at a number of others that flatly contradict that negativity in every detail. However (you knew that was coming didn’t you), despite the many positive reviews out there, I am getting a little hacked off with the nature of some of the adverse responses to Prador Moon. It is, apparently a) Too short b) Too expensive c) Too simple.
Now, let me just point out that it is simple because the story … erm, let me think … because it is short? In its way this book is a bit of a reply to those other reviewers who claim my books are far too complex and convoluted (though that wasn’t the intention). It’s a straightforward story with a lot less plot threads than usual something I’ve been aiming at more lately because my plot threads usually seem to proliferate during the writing of the first two thirds of a book and I then spend as much time extracting and discarding threads as I do writing the last third of the book. It’s short because that is what the publisher in this case requested. As to the price let me just say, “What's that got to do with me?”


Authors have as much to do with the cover price of books as the inventor of sherbet dips has to do with what they sell for in the sweet shop. And as for the kind soul who put up a two star review on amazon.co.uk without even reading the book and because of ‘a’ and ‘b’ above … well, the page count is there and the price is there, you either buy it or you don’t, but you don’t put up a negative review of something you haven’t even read!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another Translation.

Ah, the juggernaut rolls on: the Czech publisher Polaris have now made an offer for Brass Man, which they intend to publish in the next twelve months. Thus far they have published The Skinner and Gridlinked, with The Line of Polity next. The Skinner won the Salamander Award (the picture here is of the publisher collecting the award) given by the Czech Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror as the best SF book published there in 2004. This was out of a shortlist of Blood Music by Greg Bear, Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds, The Scar by China Mieville and A Deepness Upon the Sky by Vernor Vinge. What an excellent list! The following year Gridlinked appeared on the shortlist, but didn’t win. What’s really good about all this, of course, is that most of the foreign publishers who have taken my first books for translation, are now coming back for more.


Other news: in a recent phone call Jason Williams of Night Shade Books has expressed surprise and delight at the sales of Prador Moon. The first print run is all but gone and orders are still coming in. He also made a book club deal with it too. And it now seems likely that there’ll be a British edition of Prador Moon and a collection of Polity short stories including those published in Asimov’s, Interzone and elsewhere.




I’m presently working through the editing of Hilldiggers, with Line War now at over 40,000 words sitting to one side. Also set to one side at the moment is a another book I’ve started for Night Shade Books, which tells the story of Cormac’s early years.

Monday, November 27, 2006

God stuff.

Ah, I do like this:

“Wars are still waged, crimes committed, and science undone out of deference to an invisible being who is believed to have created the entire cosmos, fine-tuned the constants of nature, blanketed the earth with 20,000 distinct species of grasshopper, and yet still remains so provincial a creature as to concern himself with what consenting adults do for pleasure in the privacy of their bedrooms.”
– Sam Harris.

Get this! It’s a miracle: http://getbehindjesus.net/

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Peter Watts

Some while ago Tor US sent me an ARC of Peter Watts’ excellent book Blindsight, which I read almost in a state of shock because it was so good, and for which I wrote the blurb:

Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development, and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness. What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this.”

A short while after this I was checking a few things out on the net when I discovered Peter has an excellent website here http://www.rifters.com/index.htm -- particularly worth checking out is his lecture on Vampire Domestication http://www.rifters.com/real/progress.htm To my delight I discovered that he already had four other SF books published, so I got chatting with him and arranged a books exchange. Subsequently I received signed copies of Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth B-Max and Behemoth Seppuku (The last two here are actually one book divided into two for the benefit of American book sellers – perhaps their staff have been suing for RSI damages caused by lifting any book of more than 110,000 words).

I’ve read all four books now and though I don’t think the last three are as good as Blindsight (which I have to say is the best SF book I have read in years), I definitely put them in a league ahead of most stuff out there. Really, if I hadn’t read Blindsight, Starfish would have been at the top of my best SF book list for the last few years, with the others a short distance behind it.

Why these books are not much more well-known and why they are not published in Britain is a complete mystery to me. Maybe, as some reviewers have opined, they’re too dark and cynical. Maybe they’re too intelligent. Whatever. I think they are far more deserving of plaudits than so many we’ve seen on the shortlists of various awards over very many years.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Life on Earth II

Who saw Life on Earth a couple of nights back? It showed chimps going to war with another tribe of their own kind, then killing a baby (enemy) chimp and eating it. These particular scenes reminded me of that other shocker a few years back when we were shown chimps hunting down one of another species of monkey and tearing it apart in a tree top – eating it while it was still screaming. What a slap in the face for those twats who talk about war and cruelty being the territory of humans only. And oh how the plonkers who believe in a kind and cuddly Mother Nature must be cringing! Nature, my friends, is not all fluffy bunnies, perfectly integrated ecologies and balance overseen by a benevolent Gaia. It’s a wilderbeast shrieking while a lion eats its guts, it’s parasites boring into living flesh, a starving elephant losing its last teeth and having its trunk torn off by hyenas, it is ebola, ameobic dysentry, flu, leprosy… And we humans are just one other product of nature.

This program also showed a tree falling in the rain forest, and the subsequent growth around that fallen giant. This was very interesting, and rather reminded me of the grass fires witnessed in the previous program. Did the eco-friendly environmentally aware BBC film makers stand around waiting for that tree to fall naturally? Did they buggery: “Hey guys, turn those cameras on – I’m just going for a stroll with my chainsaw.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

German Sable Keech.

But the Japanese have got some catching up to do with the Germans. Bastei Lubbe have bought everything up to Hilldiggers, in fact they took Polity Agent before anyone had seen it and Hilldiggers before I’d even written it. I’m really grateful for their confidence in me, if somewhat spooked too.

My thanks of course to Stefan Bauer. It must be a bugger of a market there when it seems that every German I’ve encountered tells me they read the English version!

Here then is the cover of The Voyage of the Sable Keech. Please, no comments about loud and smelly flatulence, and no giggling. We are serious literary people here…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cowl in Japan.

Liz Johnson (Rights & Co-editions Manager at Macmillan) “…is truly delighted to report a Japanese deal for COWL. This is particularly exciting news as the Japanese fiction (and particularly Sci-fi) market is incredibly difficult at the moment - so many congratulations! Hayakawa Publishing Inc. will publish in paperback within 24 months.”

Excellent stuff – that’s country number nine after the USA, Russia, Germany, France, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Romania.

Now, my thanks to Hayato Kato who approached me to get one of my short stories (The Veteran) published in Hayakawa's magazine. He took it upon himself to push me out there and doubtless this result is much due to him!

Casino Royale

As James Bond, Sean Connery looked tough, he looked like the kind of guy who could rip off your head and crap down your neck. Lazenby is a vague blur in my mind. To my recollection he had some of that Conneryishness but strayed into the territory of the Milk Tray man. Roger Moore, frankly, looked incapable of ripping the skin off a banana and probably needed a stunt double for any scene where he had to walk fast. Dalton and Brosnan are also vague blurs, the latter looking like he should have been selling Grecian 2000 before moving into a career in televangelism, but then both of these were overshadowed by special effects and an increasingly silly array of gadgets and improbable villains.



When it became known that Daniel Craig was to play James Bond, there were those in the media who immediately started attacking him. Having seen him in Archangel I thought this all a bit unfair. Now having seen him in Casino Royale I’d like the reporters concerned to be force-fed their own newspapers, anally. Craig was bloody excellent. He can do smooth, but with a nicely thuggish undertone, and has a lot more emotional depth than all the previous Bonds, including Connery. I think he’s the best yet.

It was also good that this Bond movie was without gadgets or ridiculous hitmen with steel teeth. Though updated, it was very true to the book. Are film directors starting to realise that CGI has levelled the special effects playing field and that story and character are once again of prime importance? I hope so.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Global warming worse than we thought...

I had to swipe this from Jerry Wright's post on the Asimov's board - amused the hell out of me.

Human induced Global Warming is a worse problem than even Drs. Hansen and Mann have told us. Evidence is accumulating the effects extend solar system wide.

On Pluto: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/pluto_warming_021009.html

On Triton: http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/19980526052143data_trunc_sys.shtml

On Saturn: http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20061109-022035-4126r

On Jupiter: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060504_red_jr.html

On Mars: http://www.mos.org/cst-archive/article/80/9.html


Wonderful - who realised the sales of SUVs extended so far!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beckett and co.

I sometimes I wonder if I’m awake or if I've drifted off to sleep and am now having a nightmare about living in Swiftian political satire.

So, we have firemen who refuse to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march being pilloried and then sent for ‘diversity training’ (Yeah, okay, what about the right of a heterosexual man to feel pretty damned uncomfortable dressed as a fireman amidst a bunch of gays? How about if he dressed as an American indian or motorcycle cop, or a construction worker?) We have an anti-Midas left-wing demagogue waiting to grab the reins of power – a prick who thinks it perfectly fine to change the law because those whose opinions he doesn’t agree with aren't being thrown into prison. And then we have Margaret Beckett, who claims that those who disagree with the AGW theory are little different from supporters of Islamic terrorism and should be denied access to the media. (Yep, people like me frequently support those strapping Semtex around their waists and converting innocent people into something like an abbatoir waste-heap.) I’d like to think she’s just a moronic twat who put her foot in her mouth. The unfortunate reality is that she’s only moronic in so far as she said out loud what she and all her comrades believe.

Let me reprise that: we have re-education camps for the politically incorrect, we have a potential leader ready to trample over the legal system to implement his ideology, and we have a minister now quite prepared to destroy the freedom of the press and free speech (though of course moves have already been made in that direction). And these are just three recent examples.

A message to all those who voted this herd of scabrous pus-dripping Orwellian pigs to the trough of power not once but twice: DON’T FUCKING DO IT AGAIN! Have you actually joined up the dots now, after nine years, and understood what a monster you’ve unleashed on us all? Wake up, just because this party is called Labour does not mean it has anything at all to do with the working man. Another vote for these cunts is another vote for an increasingly totalitarian government. Vote for them again and it is quite likely you’ll lose the right to vote them out of power next time round. Vote for them and you are voting for the future of your child – one in which he reports your political incorrectness, or a clip round the ear you gave him, to the school authorities so he gets taken away and you get sent for re-education. Vote for them and eventually all you earn will be taken away to be redistributed on the basis of need – decided by the government, of course. Vote for them and it’ll be the job of some indolent over-paid public sector official to tell you when to take a shit in the morning and how much broccoli to have with your vegetarian eco-friendly fucking nut-roast.

WAKE UP!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Control Freaks

To these words add one of the phrases below: ‘If something is not done catastrophe will ensue, so I am going to make lots of new rules, regulations and laws that you must obey, because’

you are too fat,
you smoke too much,
the planet is warming,
you drink too much,
you drive too fast,
you produce too much waste,
you are racist,
you are homophobic ,
the terrorist threat is growing,
you might hurt yourself,
you smack your children,
you’ve got a job and others haven’t,
you’re too rich,
an Ice Age is coming,
the oil is running out,

Then, after adding your chosen phrase, now add these words: ‘and you are going to pay and pay and pay until your bum-hole squeaks.’ These particular words can also be added to the phrases below:

I want a cushy number in Brussels
I want to rescue the children of Africa
I want a fat pension,
I want another pay rise,
I want my son/daughter/wife/husband/aromatherapist to have a cushy number in Brussels
I want all people to be equal, whether or not that’s true
I want my party financier to have this contract

It’s easy enough to think of many more…

No, sorry, it's Climate Change.

It’s interesting how the AGW alarmists (those of a particular political stripe who try to distort reality by tampering with how we describe it) are now modifying their language. Global Warming is now Climate Change. How perfect. This covers them when, embarrassingly, Earth’s climate fails to conform to their models, when we actually have a few cold years, when the Ross Ice Shelf fails to collapse, or when the oceans fail to rise up and drown our modern day coastal cities of Sodom and Gomorra. Also, Climate Change is an excellent catch-all on which all these can be blamed: a cold wet winter, heavy snowfall, expansion of the ice-caps, drops in sea temperature, hurricanes, tornados and quite probably genital warts. All man-made of course and all due, when you shunt aside the words ‘Climate Change’, to Global Warming. For the alarmists it's rather annoying that we aren’t all being fried or drowned now for our capitalist sins.

From 1895 until the 1930’s similar alarmists peddled a coming ice age. Overlapping this, in the period from the late 1920’s until the 1960’s, they warned of global warming. In a similar sort of overlap from the 1950’s until the 1970’s they were back to telling us the big freeze was coming. And now that we’ve moved back into a global warming phase I guess the alarmists need to cover their arses for when the fashion changes yet again. I look forward to further modifications of language. I wonder when sea level rises will become sea level fluctuations, when melting ice caps will become Artic temperature variations. You see, should AGW be disproved you need to get your catch phrase into place else the funding just might stop rolling in. ‘Climate Change’ is excellent – you can be really alarmist about stuff that has been happening to this planet for four and a half billion years.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Post.

Sigh, I sometimes wonder whether sending people signed copies of my books is worth the hassle. Some of you reading this may recollect my rant about the Canadian post office, with its stringent bureaucratic bullshit about how parcels should be addressed. They lost one parcel and returned another parcel to me (I did not put a senders address on the front, so some twat looked inside the parcel to find said address so as to return the parcel). But this was not the end of the matter. Sticking utterly to the letter of Canadian post office law I sent books in two parcels, because in one parcel they were nearing the weight limit and I didn’t want mistakes. These parcels were also correctly addressed and signed-for delivery.

The recipient of these parcels wasn’t in the office when they got there so one of the two parcels went to the local post office. He had to pay $8.00 in duties for for the privilege of collecting it. The second parcel, one that wasn’t even searched by Canada Customs, was decreed to be of a value in excess of $870.00 CDN. As the recipient said to me “WTF!!!! Are they on crack???” They tried to charge him almost $60.00 in duties on books whose value came $37.00 on the custom’s declaration form. “They’ve got to be on drugs!!!! And not even the good ones!!!!”

He observed:
“Neal, please don’t get me wrong because I’d never devalue your work because yes, I’m definitely a fan and I REALLY can’t wait to get those books in my hands… But, there’s no fricken’ way in hell I’m going to pay twice the amount of the declared value in duties so that some petty, self-important bureaucrat can pad his personal bonus for revenue generated!”

He disputed the duty charges and sent the package back to Canada Customs to be re-evaluated. Customs we’re then supposed to contact him so that they could have an “informed discussion” about the value of the contents.

“F*ck (again!!!)”

The final result of this was an apology from Canadian Customs. Apparently a computer glitch resulted in the books being overvalued by a factor of 10. How remiss of them.

My latest bit of fun, which prompted this bit of blogging, concerned a copy of Polity Agent sent to a guy in the USA. Despite being bubble-wrapped and placed inside a padded envelope, the book arrived with its spine damaged and dust jacket split top and bottom (see the pictures). I now must make a compensation claim (I won’t be paid the full value) and send another book from a limited supply. Be nice if the postal workers concerned treated parcels with a little respect rather than using them to practise drop goals.

Anyway, it is now an unfortunate necessity for me to send books wrapped in bubble-wrap inside corrugated cardboard boxes, which I’ll have to buy, so costs just went up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Life on Earth.

The green/environmental agenda, with its concomitant propaganda and politics, is worming its way into everything in an extremely irritating manner. The sainted David Attenborough, who one would like ot think above such things, shows himself to be of the same BBC mindset as usual. Last week Life on Earth showed a Polar bear struggling across melting ice in search of food, then showed it trying to find a walrus dinner and paying the penalty for trying to attack something the size of a parcel truck. Now, every year large areas of the sea around the Arctic freeze, and every year they thaw. A Polar bear struggling across melting ice is not going to be an uncommon sight. Also, an animal trying to bite off a bit more than it can chew is not uncommon either. It’s called nature, and nature is not kind, it is ruthless and unforgiving. However, whilst displaying these films clips, Attenborough had to wax cringingly bathetic and deliver his BBC-approved homilies about man-made global warming.

This week we saw a grass fire that ‘consumes everything in its path including the old and young’ at which point we were shown the skeleton of a gazelle lying on still-smoking ground. Right, so this fire, which consumes everything in its path, consumed the animal’s flesh, fat and internal organs, but selectively left clean white bones? You also have to wonder how long the BBC film crew had to hang around to wait for a grass fire: “Get those cameras ready, guys – I’m just going for a smoke.”

Back to AGW: My parents bought me a year's subscription to Scientific American, which has had some interesting stuff in it. A recent issue I had to bin, however, since it seems wholly an AGW propaganda pamphlet. I think the article that finished it for me was the one about aircraft vapour trails contributing to global warming i.e. the trails hold in planetary heat during the night. The emphasis was all on that, not on the other point, which was quickly glossed over, about vapour trails reflecting sunlight during the day, thus reducing warming.

AGW believer take note of this.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Totalitarianism.

So, in his wisdom the Anti-Midas (A guy who touches gold and turns it into crap), Gordon Brown, has decided that though the Nick Griffin and Mark Collett of the execrable BNP have been acquitted by jury of stirring up racial hatred he’s going to change the law because, "Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we have got to do whatever we can to root it out, from whatever quarter it comes."

That would be mainstream opinion in this country that those in the Labour party agree with, of course.

During nine years in office Labour has put more than 3,000 new crimes on the books, brought in five Acts on immigration, seven on terrorism, 10 on education, 11 on health and social care and 23 on criminal justice. Obviously this just isn’t enough to keep us under control.

Maybe Brown will use the ‘Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act’ which now apparently allows Ministers to enact or alter or abolish just about anything they choose without having to put it through Parliament.

What a wonderful time we’re going to have when Brown finally gets his sticky hands on the reins of power.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The God Delusion.

Perhaps I need to reiterate my position on god, gods, whatever. If someone says to me, in all seriousness, “I believe in the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus, the rain-making pink elephant, or (that old favourite) the flying spaghetti monster,” I will consider that person to be a deluded idiot, possibly a dangerous deluded idiot. If a person says to me, “I believe in God,” my opinion is exactly the same, though perhaps with some sympathy for him if, like most, he was indoctrinated from birth. Because his belief is part of a religion this does not mean that I have to respect either him or his beliefs. The numbers game does not work. Just because he is one of a large number of irrational fools does not make him more worthy of respect than the guy who believes aliens from Andromeda are controlling his mind whenever he’s not wearing his foil hat and rubber boots.

Farepak

Oh dear, the presenters on TV are certainly a bunch of liberal lefty disconnected-from-reality tossers. This morning there was stuff about the Farepak collapse in which people lost their savings. One person highlighted was a single mother of five living in a rather nice house. Um, let me think, how does she pay for it all? Oh yeah – she doesn’t. They showed her on the phone listening to a Farepak recorded message. Apparently she knew there was compensation but did not know how to get her hands on it. There is no compensation. If your savings company goes bust you lose your savings. The money that is being made available is being donated by supermarkets as a publicity stunt. The GMTV presenters were then getting aeriated with some minister and asking why the government can’t put its hand in its pocket. FUCK OFF! The government doesn’t put its hand in ITS pocket; it puts its hand in OUR pockets! When are tossers like this going to realise that every single penny the government spends has been screwed out of the working population of this country? It’s not a bottomless fund of free money. If these GMTV presenters feel so strongly about all this then maybe they can dip into their own bulging pockets? Anyway, I look forward to hearing of Gordon Brown coming to the rescue, since he is always so generous with other people’s cash.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Crystal Rain - Tobias Buckell

Well, for various reasons I’ve not been reading as much as usual, and my ‘to read’ pile has been stacking up. First on my list upon returning to it was Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell. It’s always a little worrying reading a book by an author you’ve had contact with since you always feel the urge to say something nice even if you don’t mean it. I’ve tried to hammer down on that over the last few years. Now I will only comment on a book if it is one that grabs me and keeps me focused on it throughout; one I’ll read in preference to doing just about anything else. I’m happy to say that Crystal Rain is such a book. It’s got all the stuff I like: a bastard superhuman immortal, cruel rip-your-guts-out aliens, action, characters I cared about and a good story. If you like my stuff, I rather think you’ll like this too.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reminder: Heffers.

I nicked this from elsewhere:

Heffers 2nd Science Fiction & Fantasy Evening will be on Thursday 2nd November from 6.30pm. Tickets are £2.00 each, this is redeemable against a purchase made on the night. Under 15s go free, but still require an entry ticket.

For further information or to purchase tickets, please contact Heffers Bookshop, The Grafton Centre, Cambridge or telephone 01223 568573 or email sarah.whyley@heffers.co.uk.
We have a fantastic line-up again this year and the evening will be free from speeches and readings, just a chance to meet some fantastic authors, get books signed and mingle.

The line-up is as follows:

Mark Chadbourn, Chaz Brenchley, Stan Nicholls, James Barclay, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Neal Asher, Justina Robson, Jon George, Mike Carey, Steve Cockayne, Juliet E McKenna, Jessica Rydill, Amanda Hemingway, Paul Kearney, Mark Robson, Sam Enthoven, Ian Whates, Simon Satori Hendley, S F Said, Matthew Skelton, Eoin McNamee, Erin Hunter, Angie Sage, Philip Reeve and Peter F Hamilton.

Where's my liver?

Ah, there's hope for me yet: "British scientists have grown the world's first artificial liver from stem cells in a breakthrough that will one day provide entire organs for transplant. "

Now all I need them to do is start growing lung tissue...

Rather doss-about day today. Rather than write anything I just sat and read Terry Pratchett's 'Thud'.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Aaaargh!!!

So, council tax inspectors will be able to come round your house and take photographs inside and out and, if you refuse them entry, you’ll be subject to a £1000 fine. Prior to this we’ve had this idea that if you do any of the electrics in your house you must have them inspected. Councils are bugging people’s waste bins. If you live in a ‘desirable area’ you may soon have to pay more council tax for the privilege, even though all the service costs will be less (Where do the police spend most of their time? Either behind a desk or in sink estates). The coming revaluation of council tax is going to penalize those who don’t live in Labour controlled areas, like where I live in Essex.

I said, quite some time ago (because I could see where this bunch of control freaks was going) that my home will remain my castle and no fucking government toad gets inside.
Frankly, if a council inspector comes to my house demanding entry with his camera, he is going to require surgical intervention to remove it from that place where the sun don’t shine. Also, if I start getting hassle from my council about what I put in my bin bag the hassle will certainly cease because there won’t be a bin bag outside my house – I’ll be dumping it on council property.

But it’s all increasing totalitarianism. The latest pile of shit has come from Milliband with a whole raft of ‘green’ taxes. Everyone is going to be hit, hard, and what a huge difference it’ll make when Britain produces less than 2% of the world’s human carbon emissions (just a little note here: human-caused CO2 is a mere 3.5% of the total). It’s just fascist state control. In the end, as I have said before, you’ll need Government permission and a risk assessment for farting in public.

At the first opportunity I am going to leave this wank-hole of a country.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Snippets 1.

I’m now about 13,000 words into Line War and only one planet has been depopulated. I must be slacking. Readers might be glad to know that a certain brass guy has become a little miffed with certain recent events…

Well, the dieting regimen I mentioned last month http://theskinner.blogspot.com/2006/09/before-getting-into-this-writing-game.html certainly seems to have done the job. That is, the regimen whereby I eat bugger-all, smoke plenty and drink espresso. I can even tuck in my shirts, having now lost precisely one-and-a-half stone, have a 32 inch waist and am thinking that maybe I can ease up a little.

My camera replacement (after a series of unfortunate events involving a bottle of coke and a hangover) is a Nikon Coolpix L4, and seems to do the job I require of it. I considered getting myself a digital movie camera then forgot the idea. Do I want to experience a larger proportion of my life through a lens?

Barrel of stout brewing away in our kitchen here. Should be ready in about a week, whereupon I’ll move it out in the shed to keep it cool. Um, maybe I should keep to the diet…

After the recent demise of our VHS video recorder, we searched in the local supermarket for a cheap replacement. Nothing doing; old technology. I finally bowed to the inevitable and bought a DVD HDD recorder (Liteon). Excellent machine, and somewhat easier to use than the old VHS.

Short stories: one called Bioship has been taken by George Mann for his The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction.

Right, back to work.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hilldiggers Cover.

Here’s a first look at the probable cover of Hilldiggers. I like this. Someone has definitely read the book to produce it because this is the ‘massively secure space station’ mentioned in the blurb below. A station called Corisanthe Main.

During a war between two planets in the same solar system – each occupied by adapted humans – what is thought to be a cosmic superstring is discovered. After being cut, this object collapsed into four cylindrical pieces, each about the size of a tube train. Each is densely packed with either alien technology or some kind of life. They are placed in three Ozark cylinders of a massively secure space station. A female scientist, conducting research there, falls pregnant, gives birth to quads, then commits suicide.

By the end of the war one planet has been devastated by the hilldiggers – giant space dreadnoughts employing weapons capable of creating mountain ranges. The quads have grown up and are assuming positions of power in the post war society. One of them will eventually control the hilldiggers.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blur Studios


My thanks to Roger Fourt for pointing out this particular site to me: http://www.blur.com/shorts/rockfish/index.html Here you can find a short animated film called Rockfish, created by Tim Miller at Blur studios. It’s excellent. I felt impelled to email the guy and say so, and to wonder how long it would be before all actors end up having to sign on at the dole office. He emailed back to thank me, but also to tell me he is a HUGE SF fan and has The Skinner and Prador Moon sitting on his shelf. He’s also told me that they’re developing Rockfish i.e. turning it into something bigger. Bloody good luck to Tim Miller and Blur studios I say!

Digging Words.

Well, I can definitely say that today at 4.35 I saved Hilldiggers with the certainty that it can now wing its way to Macmillan. It’s a great feeling. Now I must return my attention to Line War, which at present stands at a mere 7000 words (Hilldiggers is 141,000 – just a little smaller than Brass Man).

With the completion of this book my word count, for Macmillan, now stands at over a million. In one of those silly calculations, instigated by my dad, I’ve worked out something daft. He asked me what that total would add up to in distance. I duly worked out an average word count per line of text them measured a line. It turns out that (just in the books) I write at a rate of about a mile a year. Since the first word of Gridlinked I’ve covered about seven miles. My hope is to circumnavigate the Earth, but I rather suspect I won’t live that long.

Ah well.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Thanks Forbidden Planet!

Many thanks to Kevin and the rest at Forbidden Planet for having me there signing books, and for helping clean up my bag, camera case and so forth. I turned up there slightly hung-over and in need of a coke, and before entering the store, took a few gulps from a bottle before returning it to my bag. The cap wasn’t on properly. Result: bag full of coke, three discount copies of Prador Moon sold in the pub afterwards, numerous soaked bookmarks and one defunct digital camera. Suffice to say it wasn’t particularly profitable trip for me.

Nice to meet (in the bookshop and in The Angel) Peter Haydies and Saba, Mark Croucher, Neil Mullins, Scott Hume and Jools Enticknap – who gave up on getting me to sign his second name when he saw I couldn’t even get the first one right! Thanks for an excellent evening, and I hope you enjoyed yourselves. You’ve learnt now that the SF writer is just as capable of talking complete bollocks after a few pints as any other mortal. In fact, I think that’s par for the course.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Forbidden Planet Signing

Here's a reminder for those who might be interested or in the vicinity:

I'll be signing copies of Polity Agent this coming Saturday the 7th October between 1 – 2pm at Forbidden Planet, 179 Shaftesbury Ave London WC2H 8JR. This shop is at the Junction with Neal Street. Nearest Tubes: Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Holborn.

If you can't make it to the signing, don't forget to pre-order your signed copy from the store. I'll also probably be chilling in the pub around the corner afterwards too.

Have a good one.

Monday, October 02, 2006

On Crete

There’s not much to say about a holiday when you spent most of the time lying in the sun, or drinking Retsina or Metaxa, or eating. But I really have to say something about the eating.

On our first night at the Athina Apartments we wandered down to the seafront of Anissaras – where a few restaurants were located – walked past a couple that looked okay but with d├ęcor a bit motorway services – then came to a place that seemed rather nice. It was called The Windmill and was a ‘traditional Greek taverna’. Stretching up from the road along the seafront a grassed area, scattered with tables and a couple of water-pump windmills, led to the restaurant itself. We wandered up to take a table then scanned the menu.

The both of us being seafood addicts – specifically prawns and other shellfish – we ordered the ‘shrimps’ which came three ways: boiled, fried or grilled. I chose fried and Caroline chose boiled. The dishes were about 10 euros each, along with a litre of Retsina at 7 euros. When these ‘shrimps’ arrived we knew we’d found a place we would be returning to.

To your average Briton, a shrimp is something not much larger than a cigarette butt. We’d seen the pictures in the menu so knew this dish would be otherwise, but weren’t entirely sure what we’d get. Now to us prawns are the size of a finger. These were king prawns – check out the picture – and you just don’t get them like that in Britain. They were fresh firm and meaty and the fried version you didn’t even have to peel. I ate just about everything but the shell around the head. The shell was like a seafood version of crackling. I’d ordered them fried because I’d remembered eating something similar in Rhodes longer ago than I care to think about.

Other food in this family-run restaurant was of similar quality, but for us the ‘shrimps’ were best. I recollect a German couple on the table next to us eating the mixed grill and finishing their meal just before ours arrived (this was on another evening, since we devastated the Crete shrimp population in that restaurant). When the guy saw what we were getting his eyes nearly popped out of his head and he had to ask me about them.

We ate in this restaurant for just about every evening of our holiday. We drank Retsina in their garden after each exhausting day on the beach and watched the owner’s nutty goat trying to climb on sunbeds. Why try somewhere different when you’re getting food, and service, this good? The family running the place were friendly and very good at what they did – picture here of them with Caroline. I’d recommend The Windmill to anyone holidaying in this part of Crete.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Back From Crete.

Okay, I’ve just been on holiday yet again (but I was writing stuff on the beach, and not in the sand) and, as before, I wasn’t going to announce that fact here to the Internet-cruising burglary community.

I wondered what it would be like in the airport, after recent events. We arrived early at Gatwick check-in and there was no queue at all. Wonderful. Then we saw the vast mass of people slowly tramping towards hand-luggage scanners. Having seen and read the signs, we had already removed all potential liquid explosives from our hand luggage, all pointy objects and all cigarette lighters. Coming up to the scanners we then found we had to remove our belts and shoes so they too could go through the scanner. While this was occurring, I noticed a chap in uniform having to go through the same process and wondered if the set of wings on his uniform jacket might be considered a dangerously pointy object. Obviously pilots as potential suicide bombers are more dangerous than, say, pilots who might feel inclined to make a short diversion to drop their plane on Canary Wharf.

On the way back from Crete we again carefully put all potential liquid explosives, lighters and pointy objects in our main luggage. Greek security pulled me over, pulled on gloves (thankfully only as a precaution against the skiddies in the case) then after a brief search ordered me to return all my cigarette lighters to my hand luggage.

Funny old world.

Time for another medical rant. Anyone who suffers from acne rosacea will know what miniocin minocycline capsules are. They’re the pills that can stop your face breaking out in postules or taking on the jolly red glow of a bottle-of-whisky-a-day Santa. In Britain, you need a prescription for these capsules and then have to pay the prescription charge of £6.95 for 14 of them. Guess what? In Greece you can buy a pack of 12 of them over the chemist’s counter for about 4.60 euros – about £3.00.

This turns me to thoughts of other inequities. Set up a still in Britain and Customs & Excise will be kicking down your door and pinning you to the floor with the barrel of an assault rifle in the back of your head. In Crete the national drink is raki (not ouzo, surprisingly) and it is not produced by big corporations but by little, unregulated family concerns. Perhaps this continues because of the Cretan attitude towards central government in Athens. In mainland Greece gun control is very strict, almost British. In Crete, if government rules go contrary to custom, they are ignored. Just about every family has illegal firearms, which they fire into the air during celebrations. Perhaps we should learn from this: perhaps if we all had guns in our houses nanny government would be reluctant to interefere in our lives.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Writing News

Good news on the selling front. Via Jeremy Lassen’s blog (I think) I’ve learnt that Prador Moon is in the trade paperback top five at Borderlands Books and that this is not the first time it has been there. Checking there myself I see that the month before last Brass Man was in the top ten paperbacks too. Shiny.

Also, in a break between books, I decided to sit down and produce some short stories. Maybe because I’m now more used to writing at length, these stories grew in the telling so I ended up with Alien Archaeology at 21,000 words and Owner Space at 18,000 words. I hesitate to call them ‘short’ since the stories I have submitted to magazines have usually fallen between 5,000 and 15,000 words. The good news is that though it’s long, Sheila Williams at Asimov’s has accepted Alien Archaeology.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Little Darlings.

A few items on the Breakfast TV caught my attention today. One was an excerpt from a program called ‘Super Nanny’. It showed the house the nanny would be visiting: harried mother not bothering to control two little brats who were knocking the shit out of each other, chucking around toys and having tantrums. Next was a news story about a nine-year-old who had been tortured in a playground by being burned with cigarettes and lighters, then stripped naked and made to cycle across a burning field. Almost certainly the latter was attacked by examples of the former – feral children who’ve been raised by parents too bone-idle and thick to instill some discipline, parents who made a rod for their own backs by not doing so early with consistent rules and discipline, and who believe that any problems in their lives are due to somebody else and that ‘somebody should do something’ or ‘we don’t get enough help’.

You see the children produced by such an attitude everywhere: hard-faced little shits who gaze at you with hostile estimation while supping on a can of Stella, children who know that if they do anything wrong there’ll be no punishment and the child psychologists will be wheeled out with ADHD excuses, and that if they continue doing wrong the authorities will give them ineffectual ASBOs they can brag about to their brat friends.

Later, there was a news snippet about the large increase in young single mothers in this country. When asked by the presenter why there were so many of them in sink estates and other such delightful areas, the government cockroach explained how things are ‘improving’ and ‘more assistance is available’ and that ‘the figures show’ and that ‘government initiatives are’ etc. Just once I’d like to hear someone answer such a question honestly with, “Well, you find such people in such locations because that’s where the welfare scum live, and we’ve found that by making more ‘assistance’ available, more of these scroungers take advantage of it. In other countries, where ‘assistance’ is not so readily available, there’s a lot less of these scroungers, but we can’t make the logical move of reducing ‘assistance’ because that would be politically incorrect and not permissible under the daft rules of our ideology.”

Monday, September 11, 2006

Grass Cutting

Before getting into this writing game full time, I was one of those guys you see driving around in a truck with the back stacked up with hedge cuttings or the best part of a tree, or I was the guy chugging around on a big mower on your local playing field. I did this for about fifteen years: worked hard during the summer then when things cooled down in the winter I did a bit of writing. During the winter I used to put on about a stone in weight, then come the spring and early summer I would dump that weight in about two to three months. Of course, that ain’t happening now.

It’s something people don’t realised about manual workers who move into a sedentary occupation. You’re fit, you have acquired the eating habits to support that level of activity, and you’re used to being out in the sun, sweating. One problem is that the reduction in exercise, and sunshine, can make you more prone to depression. Another is the weight. I found that the stone I put on in the winter wasn’t easily going away and over the last five years my weight has been edging up. Exercise goes some way to alleviate this, but no amount of exercise can match five days of manual labour each week. I once worked out that on my ‘walk-behind’ day – when I went out with a couple of walk-behind mowers and cut private lawns – I was walking over twenty-five miles, fast, often carrying a heavy-duty strimmer or big mower bags of grass cuttings.

For the last few years I’ve been fighting the flab with low carb diets and, per week, nine miles of dog walking, 24 to 40 miles cycling and a few sessions of weight training. It ain’t enough, so now I’ve come up with a new diet plan. It’s not healthy, but I’ve been growing tired of being a fit fat bastard with and ever-increasing waistline. It goes like this: you work on the theory that if you keep shoving food into your gob and not burning it off you are going to get fat, so stop it. I stopped eating for two days and thereafter confined myself to one small meal a day. Feel hungry? Well, my stomach has shrunk so that’s not so much of a problem, when it does become a problem I smoke a cigarette. Feel tired and lethargic? Drink a triple espresso.

Eleven pounds in twenty-two days – half a pound a day. You’d think I would feel knackered, but I don’t. I actually feel a lot better and am doing more. Think of the weight in 2lb bags of sugar. Five and a half of them would certainly strain the handles of a supermarket carrier bag, and I’m no longer carrying that. I might write a diet book…

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Year's Best SF 11

A story called Mason’s Rats appears in here. I wrote it ages ago, then went on to produce Mason’s Rats II & III. The first two were published in issues 2 & 4 respectively of Orion ('92 & '94). All three stories were then released as a booklet by Graeme Hurry's Kimota. When in 2000 I finally got into ‘big publishing’ I had the pleasure of meeting an author whose books I’d enjoyed for about a quarter of a century – Tanith Lee. We met, chatted, exchanged books, and some time later I also gave her a copy of the little Mason’s Rats booklet. She loved it, and asked if I minded her sending it to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s. I didn’t refuse.

Interestingly I’d already sent a short story to Gardner called The Veteran, which he accepted and published in the Asimov’s of June 2004 (also went on to be published in Japanese publisher Hayakawa's SF Magazine, May 2005 issue). He also accepted Mason’s Rats I. It’s a tight and very short little story, amusing (I think) – something to enjoy but certainly not something to write huge dissertations about.

Yet here’s the weird bit. When the first story first appeared I found a review on the Internet – of the political ramifications and deep significance of this or that – that ran to more words than the story itself. When the story appeared in Asimov’s, a reviewer called Dave Truesdale slammed it in an editorial on his site Tangent somehow infering from it that I was a left-wing PETA-supporting animal activist, and demanding to know who accepted it because ‘readers have a right to know’. Of course my reaction was bewildered hilarity. A little bit of a row developed on the message board there, and now it seems that whenever rats are mentioned on the Asimov’s message boards, that story is often refered to.

It was all very strange.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dreams of Smart Phones

Caroline has just got herself a new mobile phone which is so ridiculously packed with functions that you probably need to take some sort of course to work it all out. Amazing also is the size of the battery in the thing. Studying it last night, while drunk, and trying to cancel out the predictive text – she was trying to write ‘sorry’ to someone since she had texted that person a blank message, and we kept ending up with the word ‘sprout’ – I suddenly remembered some dreams I used to have.

When I was a kid I received as a birthday present one of those now archaic LED digital watches – the kind where you had to press a button to see the time since leaving the display on would flatten the battery – and later received an early Rockwell calculator. After that I would occasionally have dreams – and I mean REM sleep dreams not waking fantasies – about owning a digital watch that possessed all sorts of weird functions, and could display graphs and other types of information in colour. Strange. This was before I even considered trying to write SFF, so I guess the stuff I was reading was already having some sort of effect on my mind. We now have various devices that display information in that way, so those dreams were close to a correct prediction of the future.

Other dreams of that time were of looking up and seeing the sky full of traffic: huge quadrate vessels, like skyscrapers detached from the ground, tumbling through the clouds. Now, because the London airports are all within 60 – 70 miles of where we live, the sky is often scattered with airplanes and criss-crossed with vapour trails. Not quite there yet – we still need antigravity.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Forbidden Planet.

Right, back on track. There’s another ‘bit of a do’ earlier than the one at Heffers on the 2nd November. I’ll be at the Forbidden Planet in London. Now, I’ve just learned that the one I’m going to is not the only one in the city – there’s a Forbidden Planet International. It’s not that one, it’s the one with the old rocket logo at:

179 Shaftesbury Ave London WC2H 8JR At the Junction with Neal Street (pictured). Nearest Tubes: Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Holborn.

I’ll be there on Saturday the 7th October signing copies of Polity Agent between 1 – 2pm. If you can't make it to the signing, don't forget to pre-order your signed copy from the store. I'll also probably be chilling in the pub around the corner afterwards too.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Bit of a Do.

For anyone who is in the area, there’s to be a bit of a do at Heffers Bookshop in the Grafton Centre, Cambridge, on 2nd November starting at 6.30pm. Numerous writers, including me, will be there to sign books and generally wander around and chat. Here’s the attendance list thus far:

Neal Asher
Steve Cockayne
Mike Carey
Erin Hunter
Eoin McNamee
Matthew Skelton
Mark Robson
SF Said
Amanda Hemingway
Philip Reeve
Jon George
Paul Kearney
Sam Enthoven
Heulwen Jones
James Barclay
Justina Robson
Stan Nicholls
John Courtney Grimwood
Mark Chadbourne
Chaz Brenchley
Juliet McKenna

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Times They Are A-Changin'

While biking along today, reflecting on the lack of girly mags lying on the verge being due to inveterate wankers getting their fix of porn via the Internet, I was overtaken by an eighty-year-old clad in lycra and an Alien-look-alike cycling helmet. Things have certainly changed. The old boy was probably off to share a cup of green tea with the eighty-four-year-old hottie he met at Tai Chi. Back when I had less grey than dirty blond in my hair, most men of that age had popped their cogs and shuffled off to trip the light fantastic. In the unlikely event of any surviving and being able to climb onto their 40’s bone-shakers, they would have been clad in baggy trousers, tweed jacket, cycle clips and a flat cap, and be off for an appointment with a pint of Guiness and a rollie shaped like a trumpet (less tobacco in the butt you throw away).

After the lycra lout had disappeared into the distance and I’d admitted to myself that my chances of catching him were remote, I pondered some other changes. Back in days of yore, in the eighties, when I went through my brief boy racer stage (this stage ended with my Mark 4 Cortina upside down in a ditch – check the picture and note the similarity to the one in the canal at the beginning of The Full Monty), girls were careful reliable drivers. Now it appears that the insurance premiums of these twenty-somethings are going up. These female testosterone addicts are now as adept at fuck-off sign language and shouting “Tosser!” out of the window as any of their opposite sex.

Other changes? Petrol was about the same price as a pint of bitter or a packet of cigarettes and if anyone had heard of global warming they would have thought it a good idea. The Internet as we now know it was undergoing its birth pangs and Bill Gates had said, “640k ought to be enough for anybody.” (Was he talking about bytes or dollars?) The music was excellent, fashion as cyclic as ever, and I was building boat windows. I was also some years away from getting by first ever story published in Back Brain Recluse.

Interesting times. Arriving at my destination, I pulled my jeans out of my socks and rolled a rollie to console myself. It wasn’t trumpet-shaped, but then I use filters. I'm thinking about getting a flat cap.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

One Rule for Them...

One of the few valid uses in this country, of 4x4s and other large private vehicles, is the towing caravans – an activity that is apparently becoming more popular. The government, however, intends to put an £1800 road tax on such vehicles, taking this activity out of the reach of all but the likes of Margaret Beckett. Their other idea is for a pollution tax on airlines. Fears that this will also take holidays abroad out of the reach of many are answered with, “But it will be the airlines who’ll be paying the tax.” This statement shows a frighteningly weak grasp of company finances we’ve come to expect from Labour.

But this is all cool. The government doesn’t want us going on holidays. It wants us working perpetually to pay endless taxes. It especially doesn’t want us holidaying abroad and spending our money outside rip-off Britain. It doesn’t want us to know about over-the-counter drugs at a third the price of the prescription charge, or about cigarettes at a quarter the price they are here, wine at a pound a litre, half price food while eating out and half price petrol at the pump. It needs us to stay and finance ministers’ foreign junkets, a burgeoning bureaucracy, Blair’s job-hunting in the US, Prescott’s non-job and the fleet of new Jaguars ministers now require (they couldn’t get the fleet of Zils they wanted).

More ‘do as I say, not as I do’. More, one rule for us and no rules for them.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Max Part Four

Max Part Four: The Ending.

After Marjorie’s death we had to wonder what would now happen to her dog. We continued walking him on a regular basis and just made enquiries when the opportunity arose. The staff said he had become more needy since her death, but I think that might have been an illusion – he had become a lot more demonstrative over the months he’d been a resident in this old people’s home probably because there were more people fussing him. Whenever we turned up to take him for a walk, he would make a fair bit of noise and roar up and down the corridors to let everyone know the rest of his pack had arrived and the were going OUT. As a little time passed we heard that things might become a little difficult, that the only place for Max might be the incinerator beside the vet’s surgery. Who would be prepared to take on an aging Alsatian suffering from epilepsy?

Marjorie’s daughter and partner invited us to her cremation in Chelmsford. Though anything involving religion tends to bring me out in a rash of contempt, I went along with Caroline. The service was mostly secular with only a little plea near the end for anyone to join in the Lord’s Prayer if they felt the need – the guy read it out without anyone accompanying him.

We were surprised and pleased to be given a mention for all we had done for Max and Marjorie and we learnt a little more about her. Nothing hugely surprising, but you realise on such occasions that the old woman you knew hadn’t always been old homebound and ill.
Afterwards we went along to a kind of wake in a pub in Chelmsford along with a few other guests including Marjorie’s ex-husband and partner – who had come down from Scotland. We learnt that if those running the old people’s home were willing to keep Max, the ex-husband would pay the bills. Of course, there were details to be sorted out…

Upon returning to our routine of walking Max we learnt that the ex-husband had balked upon finding out just how much it cost to keep an epileptic Alsatian in food and pills. It again looked like Max would be taking that trip to the vet’s. However, further negotiations took place about which we know few details. Marjorie’s daughter and partner took on the bulk of his care costs and we continued walking him.

Maybe, those of you who have been reading this have been expecting an unhappy ending. Well, there isn’t one. We are still walking Max and he is a much loved pet and resident of Downhall old people’s home. The end? Hopefully not for some years to come. The pictures here are from this morning’s walk.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

German Deal

Macmillan have agreed a new deal with Bastei Lubbe in Germany for the next two books, Polity Agent and Hilldiggers. Great stuff - the German publisher is always the first to buy rights to my books, quite often without even reading them. Apparently my stuff is selling ‘respectably’ there.

The Voyage of the Sable Keech was Lubbe’s top SF Titles for its month of publication and got a half page in trade ads, whilst Brass Man got was top SF title, got a full page trade ad, and was also Lubbe's top title (i.e. not just SF) for the month overall.

Brass Man cover adjacent. Anyone recognise it? Lubbe, though enthusiastic about grabbing my books are not so enthusiastic about using new artwork. The cover of Gridlinked was Arthur C Clarke’s 2061 cover and another from one of Meaney’s books has also been used.

Other news? I’ve finally printed up Hilldiggers and given it to my parents (applied mathematics lecturer and a school teacher – retired) and a friend in Maldon (works for Marconi – smart cookie) for criticism. I’m now having a pop at a few short stories I hope to bang off to Asimov’s and Interzone.

Friday, July 28, 2006

David Gemmell Dies.

Damn and buggeration. I’ve just discovered that David Gemmell is dead at the age of 57. He’d had a heart bypass a couple of weeks ago, but obviously it didn’t do the job. On an utterly selfish level: crap, no more excellent books like Waylander, Legend, the Jon Shannow books … so many excellent reads. This is truly a shame for readers of his stuff, and of course for his family and others who knew him. I wish I could have met the guy.

On another note, I tried to leave a post on the BBC website about this, but it was rejected because my post contained offensive language: the word ‘bugger’. I replaced it with ‘damn’ and it was accepted. Laughable, really.

Brass Man USA

Ah I see the cover for Brass Man is up on amazon.com, but sadly it’s not out in America until January, and sadly The Line of Polity isn’t coming out there (yet?).

Interesting day, in the Chinese sense of ‘interesting times’. I sat down to write some more chapter starts for Hilldiggers only to receive a phonecall from my mother informing me she had called an ambulance for my father. He was coughing up blood, amongst other unpleasant symptoms, and he’s only just come out of hospital where they were filling him up with the stuff. We went over there to find the paramedic working on him, then when the ambulance picked him up we followed that to the hospital, where we waited expecting the end. It didn’t arrive – more blood, drugs, treatment. Thus far he’s had a stent put in for a bile duct blockage, that followed by chemo for the tumours (lung and pancreas) that led to that blockage, followed by shingles and a skin infection … it’s been going on for some months now. I now intend to get completely and utterly slaughtered.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Books Read

While on holiday I read three books, all of which were enjoyable. First was courtesy of Stefanie Bierwerth at Macmillan – one time oppo of Peter Lavery and now and editor in her own right. This was Dead Simple by Peter James, an excellent thriller with a nice plot thread that seemed to come directly out of those old late night Hammer Horror showings. The next was Banner of Souls by Liz Williams. Some excellent ideas here, the main driving one being ‘haunt tech’ – a definite feeling of ‘I wish I’d thought of that.’ Last was Starfish by Peter Watts, which was as excellent as I expected having read his book Blindsight.

Only three books – I always expect to read more than this. I did, however, work through a couple of chapters of my Hilldiggers each day. I’ve since updated the alterations I made then and am now working through my ‘chapter starts’. I should be banging that off to Macmillan within the month.

Monday, July 24, 2006

On Skiathos Again

Here’s a little bit more, but that’ll be all. The thing about sunny slothful holidays is that really, there ain’t a lot to say other than: sprawled in the sunshine, swam, ate a meal, drank too much etc … which is the attraction really.

17/4/06

Back at the apartment we prepared to go off on a ‘sunset cruise’ we booked. I heard Gerry (Caroline’s father) talking to a woman in a nearby apartment and went out to join in. She seemed okay at first but has now turned into ‘the scouser from Hell’. She appeared at the meeting point for the cruise and it soon became apparent that she was to be avoided – attaching herself leechlike to people and talking non-stop bollocks. On the boat she headed for the top deck, her attitude implying that we were to follow her. We didn’t. However, she soon found others to attach to and at no point during the trip did her chatter cease

Caroline and I moved to the stern of the vessel to take things in, whereupon we fell into conversation with the deckhand. He showed us pictures of the ‘kingfish’ catches he had made during his wintertime job as a fisherman. He then moved into bullshit mode showing us an item on a string around his neck and claiming it to be the tooth of a black shark. I could see it was a half claw of some crustacean – a crayfish or a langoustine. No matter, he moved on to a Dutch girl who couldn’t have given him more signals of invitation without wrapping her legs around his neck.

The cruise midpoint meal was on mainland Greece where we were packed around tables on a beach and fed mediocre food. Gerry got the scouser next to him, but she concentrated her line of bull further down the table where she found her soulmate, or rather, someone looking for a holiday shag. The group this guy was in ended up with her for the return journey. We saw some others in this group becoming quite upset and making little darts for freedom (I dunno what was going on up there). This even included her soulmate. As we left the boat we saw she was still attached to them, excitedly wondering where they were going to go now. All but her looked quite sick.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

On Skiathos

9/7/06

Nice apartments we’ve found ourselves in: path leading up to our veranda and front door surrounded by a garden full of lemon and pomegranate trees. We’ve walked to the beach sign-posted, and it’s three quarters of an hour away with some interesting stuff along the route: walnut, fig, eucalyptus and almond trees, various rubbish and a dead dog. Cool (as in temperature) sea and steep beach, sun beds 8 Euro for two – with umbrella – for the day. Other prices? 5 litres of retsina for 7 euros, 2 litres of Metaxa for 19 euros. Bloody hot here, but not the oppressive suffocating heat of Essex. Quite noisy in the morning ... damned cockerels and cicadas…

13/7/06

Thunderstorm and pouring rain last night. Heat unrelieved so I stood out in the pouring rain in the middle of the night. We discovered a closer beach today on the other side of Skiathos town: sandy, shallow sea for a little while, sheltered, but consequently crowded. I snorkelled (not a lot to see), did plenty of crawl and sometimes just lay floating on my back in the sea. On the way back from the beach we stopped for a half litre glass of Mythos each – the glasses taken ice-coated from a freezer. Outstanding. In the evening we ate in a restaurant poised next to the sea. You could toss your leftovers into the water and watch the fishes homing in and feeding like piranhas.

14/7/06

Ten 50g packets of Old Holborn cost 60 euros here – about £4.20 a packet. At home in good old rip-off Britain a packet of this stuff is nearly £11.00, that’s £110.00 or 160 euros for ten packets. That wanker Gordon Brown is really coining it in, but does he spend it on the NHS, is it spent on research into addiction or on cures for lung diseases? Is it buggery. It’ll mostly be used to keep some chain-smoking welfare scrounger on 40 a day.

In the pharmacies here you’ll find other inequities whose source is probably the drug companies. If I am not careful in places as sunny as this my lips burn and then I end up with cold sores. The most effective cure for these is the cream Zovirex. When this cream came onto the market in Britain it was £5 for a tube no larger than a dog-end and now the price has dropped to about £3.99. Here you can buy it for half that price.

Being an evil (and foolish) smoker, the other thing I need is an inhaler. At home I can’t even get near one until I’ve seen a doctor and received a prescription and then I have to pay the prescription charge of £6.80 (or thereabouts). Here you just walk into the pharmacy and buy one over the counter for less than a couple of quid.

The cost at home of the two items I’ve mentioned would have been £10.79, here it was about £3.50.