Friday, March 30, 2007

French Cowl

Excellent, Pocket/Fleuve Noir of the UNIVERS POCHE Group are buying Cowl to publish in France next year. They’ve already bought Gridlinked and The Skinner, the latter of which they’ve already published, but they’re missing Gridlinked to do Cowl, then intend to go with the Polity series afterwards. I look forward to seeing what they do with the covers, since the French cover image for The Skinner – by Stephan Martiniere -- is the best yet, I think you’ll agree.

Asimov's Science Fiction.

Here's some of the blurb from the Asimov's Science Fiction site for the June issue of the magazine. I've yet to see the cover with it's picture of a gabbleduck, but certainly I'll post it here the moment it appears!

Popular and prolific British writer Neal Asher gives us a ringside seat for a fast-paced, suspenseful, and violent game of intrigue, double-cross, and double-double-cross, as a hunt for a stolen alien artifact of immense value forces a former agent out of retirement and into a tense chase across interstellar space into hostile landscapes where wiser humans would never dare to venture, with life or death hanging in the balance at every turn, for some hard lessons in “Alien Archeology.” This one is a full-blown, flat-out, unabashed Space Opera, and a thriller of the first water, so don’t miss it!

http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0704/nextissue.shtml

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Prador Moon back cover.

When I received the image of the full dust jacket of Prador Moon I noted that the picture on the back was from Hilldiggers. It was only when I noted it was also on the spine that I queried this. That image was only a mock up so I could see what the front of the book was like. Now, as you see, I’ve received the back cover image for approval. Damn, this is good. I’m thinking now that it really ought to be this one on the front!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Myspace

Well, being the publicity tart that I am, I've now started doing a few bits with a Myspace account I got about two years ago. The profile URL is: http://www.myspace.com/nealasher and the blog Url is: http://blog.myspace.com/nealasher I'm not entirely sure where I'm going to go with this that'll make it any different from what I've already got (I've already copied blog posts across). Anyway, it gives me another excuse not to get on with writing...

Hey, come and be my friend - I'll look a bit sad if there's only one or two listed.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Galactic Empires

Couple of bits here:

Over the last year or so I’ve only written two short stories … or rather novelettes. One of these is called Alien Archaeology which is to be published in Asimov’s sometime hence. I look forward to that one especially, because Brian Beiniowski of that magazine was asking me for a description of a gabbleduck. Apparently they were looking at using the image of one for the front cover, though whether that will happen I don’t know yet.

The other story was called Owner Space. This is set in a future covered by none of my full-length novels, but will be familiar to those who have read The Engineer or The Engineer ReConditioned, for it is the same setting for stories there called Proctors, The Owner and (only in the latter collection) Tiger Tiger. Owner Space has now been accepted by Gardner Dozois for his anthology titled Galactic Empires. Excellent stuff.

And finally, there’s now an interview with me up on fantasybookcritic.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Macmillan Prador Moon.

Time for a pretty picture, which I had hell's own trouble converting from and adobe file. Here then is the cover of the Macmillan British version of Prador Moon. Not sure yet whether it'll be in hardback, but it certainly looks cool!

Update:
What a silly sod I am. The picture here was taken from a picture of a full dust jacket, so of course there's going to be a hard back. Damn, I must drink less wine - brain cells dribbling out of my ears.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

If you're religious, cover your eyes now!

I found this joke submitted to the Normal Bob Smith site (link down on the right) by one of his fans. Not to everyone's taste, but I laughed.

Four Nuns die in a car accident and are waiting to get into heaven through the pearly gates.

St Peter, being the gatekeeper, asks if any of them have had anything to do with a man’s penis.

“Yes,” says the first, “I've seen one.”

“Go wash out thine eyes in the holy fountain and yea may enter the gates of heaven.”

“Well, I've touched one,” says the second nun.

“Go wash thine hands in the holy fountain and yea may enter the gates of heaven.”

St Peter now turns to see the last two nuns beating the shit out of each other, so runs over to separate them and demands to know what’s going on.

“Well,” says the third nun, “I want to gargle before she washes out her arse.”

Orson Scott Card on Global Warming.

Here's the raw truth:

All the computer models are wrong. They have not only failed to predict the future, they can't even predict that past.

That is, when you run their software with the data from, say, the 1970s or 1980s, and project what should happen in the 1990s or 2000s, they project results that have absolutely nothing to do with the known climate data for those decades.

In other words, the models don't work. The only way to make them "work" is to take the known results and then fiddle with the software until it finally produces them. That's not how honest science is done.

-- Orson Scott Card


You can read the whole thing here, and very good it is:

http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2007-03-04-1.html

...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ian M Banks.

Along with Caroline and my mother I went to see and hear an all time favorite author of mine at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. As one event in the Essex Book Festival, Ian M Banks was there to do a reading from his latest non-M book, be interviewed, then take questions from the audience. I was surprised to see that he seemed quite nervous to begin with, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have been, since I doubt that the feeling ever goes away. Once he’d got into his stride, however, he was entertaining, amusing and came across as a likeable chap.

One fly in the ointment was the assumption by the interviewer that since we were all there to see Mr Banks then we all had to be lefty liberals. Mr Banks claims to be a committed socialist who when given a chance always votes for the most left-wing candidate. I was stifling my cynicism since only a few minutes before he’d been telling us about the two Porsches and the Landrover Discovery he’d sold now he was going ‘green’. Mmm, right.

That aside it was still an enjoyable evening. At one point I was tempted to fire off a question at him after he said he hates and avoids research. I was going to ask if that avoidance of research extended to his book about whisky: Raw Spirit. I somewhat doubt that, since it certainly seems to be a passion with him. After he finished talking he sat at a table in the theatre lobby signing numerous books – the queue certainly looked satisfyingly long.

Deservedly so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Adjustments.

Couple of things I need to update here. A while back I slammed the latest series of Battlestar Galactica and that criticism now needs to be balanced. After the first few crappy episodes set on New Caprica, the series improved hugely with only one or two turds in the punch bowl (‘punch’ being the operative word here with an episode I can only describe as ‘boxing and relationships’ – one of those marking time episodes). Certainly I’ve been enjoying Battlestar lately, though I do feel the Gaius Baltar/ Number Six thread is flapping in the wind and the behaviour of the zylons has descended into the ridiculous. Where will it all end? Will it end?

Smoking. Well, I’m still off the cigarettes, though I did lapse yesterday and have about three puffs on one. I have to say that the graph of cigarette cravings I put on here is complete bullshit. It’s claimed on the website that came from, and others, that cravings last only a few minutes and the worst of them are over after the first 72 hours. I got through the those first three days quite easily and it is now that I’m having difficulties. The few puffs I had yesterday (along with some nicotine gum) where the consequence of a craving that lasted hours.

Writing and so forth. Been a bit of a struggle lately what with the outfall of a death in the family and this attempt at stopping smoking (maybe, like the guy in Airplane, I just chose the wrong time) but I’m still putting down those words. Line War is now approaching 100,000 words with the endgame building to its climax. Nothing much else to add to that really, since the writing life is hardly romantic and consists of sitting staring at a screen for hours on end until beads of blood appear on the forehead (bit too dramatic that, but I couldn’t resist it).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First Class at Last.

Every time a new one of my books comes out a guy who lives over the other side of Maldon from me calls me up and arranges for us to meet in a local pub so he can buy me a pint and get my signature on my latest book. I don’t know how long Patrick Forsythe has been doing this, but I’m fairly certain he now owns signed copies of each of my books. Patrick is a writer of numerous business books (about fifty or so) but now he’s moved on to writing travel books, starting with First Class at Last.

When I read in the local paper that he was signing copies in a local bookshop I felt beholden to go along. I paid my money, got my signed book, but then came the dread of reading work by someone I know, because it’s a right bastard having to turn round and say (if asked), “Well, it was a load of rubbish really.” Fortunately I won’t need to say that with this book since I motored through it in no time and very much enjoyed it. It was almost Brysonish in places. Nice one.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Begins Dusting off Surplice.

Okay, here I am four days after ceasing to put any nicotine of any kind in my body and six days after stubbing out my last rollie, so I’m past the 72 hours mark mentioned here. What have I felt thus far? Have I felt any changes? Hell yes.

Time since quitting
Beneficial health changes that take place
20 minutes
Blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
8 hours
Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by half, oxygen levels return to normal.
24 hours
Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body.
Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
48 hours
There is no nicotine left in the body.
Ability to taste and smell is greatly improved.
72 hours
Breathing becomes easier.
Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.

This is not necessarily in the order of the table here (snaffled from the ASH website), but not far off. Within a day my sense of taste improved, within two days it had improved frighteningly and I saw the barriers preventing me becoming as large as Ayres rock just evaporating in the sunshine. However, something else has improved to counter that: I enjoy exercise a lot more. This isn’t often mentioned in the preachy give up smoking sites and perhaps should be. Yes, heavy smoking can result in you being out of breath, but in that respect light smoking isn’t so bad really. What the light smoker does experience is a complete lack of an endorphine rush from exercise – it is just perpetual hard grind to him. Cycling and weight-training have now become less of a chore and more of a pleasure to me.

I am also loaded with more energy to expend and just don’t seem to get tired during the day. Also, come night-time, I am tired and fall to sleep quickly, which is unusual for me.

Another noticeable effect has been a sharpening of my senses. I see hear and feel things a lot more acutely now, as if a deadening layer has been removed from all my nerves. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s definitely a bad thing if you try drinking the same amount of coffee you drank while smoking. Fingernail marks in the ceiling and the like.

Cravings? Yeah, enough of them, but I’m being bloody-minded about my addiction: “No, bugger off you mindless shite! You will not make me smoke!” The problem with the organism is its lack of intelligence when it come to behaviourism. The organism will certainly make the connection between the burning pain and the blow torch applied to the testicles, but has difficulty making the connection between that asthma attack in the middle of the night and the cigar you smoked the day before (on top of all those rollies).

And I shall soldier on!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jesus Loves You!


I was taking a look at the Richard Dawkins site, which is sometimes good for a laugh when a tambourine thumper appears to try and save some souls, when I found a link to this: http://www.normalbobsmith.com/ I really do like this site. After you've had a little go at dressing Jesus up as Elvis or dressing Mohammed as a Hasidic Jew, move on to reading some of the hate mail and the replies to it. Hilarious! And it seems that an ability to spell must be confined to atheists.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Born-again Non-smoker

I don’t know what the precise statistics are, but most smokers really want to be non-smokers though have some problems getting over an addiction stronger than that to heroin. I myself am an expert at giving up. I’ve tried just about every year since before I was thirty and have given up for periods ranging from a day to a year. Surprising as some may find this, having read my ranting about smoking bans, I do know precisely what has its claws in me and precisely what it’s doing to me.

I know that before I gave up last time I was starting to need asthma inhalers and within a few weeks of having given up did not need them again, until, that is, I started smoking again. I know that if I smoke below eight cigarettes a day the pain in the left side of my chest fades away, and if I smoke more than ten cigarettes it comes back hard. I know that out of every fifty cigarettes I smoke there’s about half of one I actually enjoy, the rest I smoke just to stop myself feeling the misery of withdrawal. Exercise hurts when I smoke, is a pleasure when I don’t. I find it difficult to lie on one side while in bed and sometimes, when I’ve got up to go to the toilet, I return to bed out-of-breath. I assume this is due to all the crap in my lungs spreading out while I was lying down.

I know that all these symptoms, and others, will only get worse if I continue smoking. The latest one I’ve been getting is ear infections that then work their way into my eustachian tubes. Obviously the fags are not responsible for the bugs concerned, but they create and exacerbate the weakness they exploit. Working at giving up I’ve been trying to chew a piece of nicotine gum before a craving hits – a 4mg piece can normally keep me off the fags past midday almost cutting my cigarette consumption by half.

Prior to my father’s death I contracted another of those ear infections and it just lingered. Over the last week it travelled by eustachian tube from left to right ear, with a nice sore throat stopover in between, finally arriving at crushing eyeball station to play golf with my tooth nerves and attach a compressor hose to my sinuses. I was getting heartily sick of this until I discovered the virus that had arrived was only a scout. The whole army came next and poleaxed me. Flu, flu-type symptoms, bad cold, man-flu, call it what you will. I felt as rough as a pineapple. One day I felt so cold I had the heating at over seventy and additional to my usual garb wore a jumper, Arctic fleece, dressing gown and woolly hat. My throat soon felt like someone had wire-brushed it and I sat in a chair wishing it would all go away.

For three days I chewed nicotine gum in the morning and smoked five cigarettes in the afternoon and evening. I blame paracetamol and Strepsils – without them I might not have been able to smoke at all. This last Saturday I wondered what the hell I was doing and chewed a second piece of gum in the evening and smoked nothing. Same again on Sunday.

But it’s the nicotine I’m addicted to – a fact that was brought home to me by this website from which I’ve borrowed the graph shown. So today I haven’t used the gum since I want to get those 72 hours behind me, and there’s no avoiding them. And the same from now on in … never give up giving up.

Cobh, Cove, Ireland.















A
few weeks back I visited Ireland for the first time. Caroline booked us into a guesthouse/B&B called Amberleigh in Cobh, formerly Queenstown after a visit from Victoria and now pronounced ‘Cove’ i.e. when Southern Ireland gained independence the residents changed the name to Cove but spelled it the Gaelic way so it means nothing in Gaelic and is nothing but confusing to English readers. Very Irish.
We took a Ryanair flight from Stanstead that Caroline had booked and paid for some time previously. For this she recently had to pay an extra £20 flight tax because the Anti-Midas Brown has found this new toy called ‘the environment’ that he can use to screw tax payers for further money to fund his legions of diversity managers, focus groups, spin doctors and general thumb-up-bum bureaucrats.
We booked in with hand luggage that then went through scanners along with jackets and belts. Caroline was searched again, but she often is. After this there was another set of scanners for our footwear. As usual, off to one side, there were bins filled with bottles of shampoo, gel, hairspray, deodorant etc.

The flight took one hour five minutes and since we had taken only hand luggage we were off the plane and heading out of the airport very quickly – seeing a taxi driver on the way in with a sheet of paper with ASHER written on it. He took us to Cobh in darkness and there were many of those ‘what?’ moments as we tried to adjust our Essex brains to the Irish accent. Only while being driven there did we discover that Cobh sits on a sort of island in the bay – with one road on and off. Finally our driver deposited us at Amberleigh Guesthouse – the place is actually a B&B but such a description seems inadequate.
Michael and Thelma were very welcoming. The guesthouse was a big Victorian building; high ceilings, spacious, furnished like a stately home and our bedroom, with its double bed rather than twin beds, overlooked the harbour – a view impressive at night, with lights reflecting off the water, and even better during the day.

With little time left we shot out for something to eat. It being out-of-season in Cobh there wasn’t a great deal open, and the restaurant M&T recommended was packed. We ended up eating in a Chinese restaurant, and very enjoyable it was.

The next day we woke to appreciate the wonderful views from Amberleigh. Downstairs we enjoyed a huge Irish breakfast, in my case: cereal with milk, orange juice, fresh coffee then bacon, eggs, sausage, black and white pudding, fried tomato and fried bread. I could feel my arteries creaking even as I ate. The harbour, which we could also see from the breakfast room was surprisingly huge to me, but as, over the next few days I began to learn something of its history (mostly from Michael), I again realised the truth in that ‘travel broadens the mind’. Michael was involved in saving an island, in the mouth of the harbour, from being again built on and was also striving to have it turned into a world heritage site. Spike Island has a wonderful old prison on it and more history per square inch than you would ever find at Alcatraz. Tourism in Cobh would of course benefit hugely.
After breakfast we took the Titanic Tour. Cobh was the last port of call of that massive ship and the history of it is scattered all over the town. Just as is history of many other vessels and events: the Lusitania survivors were rescued by people from Cobh and those that didn’t survive are buried there, something like six million Irish went through this port on their way to America … go right back and the Phoenicians were here. History drips from the gutters.

Our second Michael was very knowledgeable – you could tell by the way he answered out-field questions, in my case one concerning refrigeration aboard the Titanic. He was an ex-Navy guy and an avid historian – even having been consulted for the film. At the end of our tour we drank Guinness while Michael II talked a little more about the plaque from the people of Cobh he organized to be placed on the deck of the Titanic. He also showed us what the pressure down that deep does to a polystyrene coffee cup. Those who laid the plaque took one down in an onion bag, being returned to the surface it was lucky it didn’t fall through the bag’s mesh, since the pressure had reduced it to the size of a thimble.

About the Guinness: it is better over there, but I’ve come to the conclusion this has nothing to do with the water – it’s the frequency of use. Order a Guinness in Britain and because it’s not drunk here very often the pint you’ll receive has likely been sitting in the pipes for hours if not days. Order a pint of the same in Ireland and quite often you have to wait your turn. It comes out black as sin with a texture to the head like double cream on a floater coffee. Nectar.
We spent a few days in Cobh (it was for my birthday), then regretfully headed for home and chaos. Caroline was searched again and a tin of hairspray was confiscated from her bag – one the customs women missed on the way out.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Solaris Science Fiction.

Well, enough doom and gloom. Here’s the excellent cover of The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction edited by George Mann. Cool cover and, of course, a cool collection of short stories. To quote:

This is an eclectic collection of all-original science fiction stories from some of the foremost luminaries in the genre. Featuring new tales of far future murder, first contact, love and war from such well-regarded and award winning authors as Peter F. Hamilton, Stephen Baxter, Adam Roberts, Jeffrey Thomas, Eric Brown, Paul Di Filippo, Neal Asher, Jay Lake and Ian Watson, this collection is sure to delight all fans of good science fiction.