Thursday, July 16, 2009

Writing News Update.

Sorry not to have written here for so long, and I promise to try to do better in the future. Things have been getting in the way, like, as well as writing books I’ve been doing lots of work on our house here: making new doors; chiselling out and repointing the front wall which, under the about a half inch thick of old pointing, is mostly held together with mud, making a concrete skirting along the bottom of the wall, making trellises and a grape arbour, oh, and swimming and drinking too much wine.

So, over the last few months I’ve completed the first draft, at 150,000 words, of the next book and finally settled on a title. It will be called The Departure and will be the first book in The Owner series (whose length is yet to be decided). This tells the the story implicit in the title of the Owner’s early years (short stories about the Owner are to be found in The Engineer ReConditioned) in which he begins his gradual climb to godlike power.

Finally having managed to get this printed off I’m leaving it to Caroline to read through before I again take a look at it. Hopefully by then I’ll have distanced myself from it enough to be able to see the glaring errors.

Meanwhile I’ve started on Gabbleducks – the third book of this latest three-book contract for Macmillan. Thus far I have the only living survivor of a hooder attack trying to recover his sanity. Polity medical technology would be able to sort him out in a trice, were it not for the fact that the AIs are reluctant to meddle with his mind since the hooder that attacked him was a near mythical creature called The Technician, and it did something to him that even they don’t quite understand. Also there are other circumstances surrounding this attack, which happened during the rebellion against the Theocracy on Masada, like the presence of a gabbleduck at the scene, and how it may or may not have been involved.

I’m having fun with this one. With the an odd character called Chanter who pursues The Technician in his mudmarine, trying to understand the grotesque sculptures of bones the creature makes with its victim’s remains, trying to understand its art… And, since the whole investigation of all this involves insanity, who better to head the investigation than a war drone who has experienced this condition and now takes great interest in it – a war drone with the shape of a scorpion, and who may be accompanied by a black AI previously thought to be dead.
He must explore the insanity of a race called the Atheter who apparently sacrificed civilization and intelligence to avoid becoming victims of an alien technology, and the insanity of a man called Jeremiah Tombs, an erstwhile Proctor – one of the religious police of Masada – who refuses to remember what happened to him, refuses to even believe the Theocracy has fallen, and has a very strange interest in the Euclidean patterns on the shells of the penny molluscs of that world…

Don’t ask me where all this is going. If I knew I wouldn’t have so much fun writing it. I can promise excessive weirdness and violence, however.

Letters to Athens News

Here's some I've letters sent to Athens News, a paper in English focusing mainly on Greek news:

Dear Sir,

A previous writer to this paper expressed disappointment at the ‘windows’ in the coming smoking ban here in Greece. This person was apparently looking forward ‘with bated breath’ to the time when he or she could go into a taverna, bar or club without the result of ‘stinging eyes, my clothes and hair stinking and the air suffocating me’. I have to say I read and heard much of the same sort of hysterical nonsense prior to the British smoking ban: many non-smokers shouting about their ‘right’ not to have these dirty, evil smokers inflicted upon them. These vocal anti-smokers also happily repeated the propaganda of the government and organizations it funds, like ASH, which stated that there would be no loss of trade to pubs and clubs because the smokers leaving such establishments would be replaced the non-smokers flocking back. However, we see the true results of the British ban now.

Prior to that ban, in 2007, the rate of pub closure across Britain was four every week. After the ban it rose to twenty-seven every week as all those belligerent anti-smokers failed to return to the pubs. Many bingo halls and working men’s clubs have also gone to the wall, and tens of thousands of those previously employed in all such places lost their jobs. Many pubs even lost non-smoker customers because they didn’t want to go to places now empty of their smoker friends. For those who have hung on we even have the ridiculous situation of non-smokers following smokers outside so they will still have someone to talk to. And perhaps they are right to go outside because, as many discovered, the smells from the toilets and the stale beer are now no longer disguised by the smell of cigarette smoke.

Outside, of course, they might also spot the owner of the pub who, having paid hundreds of thousands for the place, now cannot smoke a cigarette on his own premises. Such blanket bans are totalitarian – the bar owners should be the ones to decide whether or not they will allow smoking. The justification, of course, is ‘health’ and the lies about passive smoking. The reality is that only politicized ‘science’ came up with any figures on passive smoking and, as has already been proven by bans elsewhere, they in no way reduce the number of smokers. And those inflicting such bans are utterly two-faced, as we know by the smoking room at the London G7 Conference, and the failure to enforce non-smoking in the European Parliament.

The smoking ban in Britain was an unmitigated disaster for the pub trade and, if enforced in the same way here, it will kill tavernas, clubs, kafenions and restaurants. No arguments: people will go out of business, jobs will be lost, the government will lose revenue and more freedom will be destroyed by an autocratic state.


Neal Asher


Dear Sir,

A blossom from a hot pink bourgainvilla blew in through the front window and settled in my lap. It was dried out like ricepaper and it almost seemed to me that Crete was saying, “Sorry, this is the only consolation I have to offer.” Before considering that this might be a keepsake – something as insubstantial to remember this restaurant by as the promise of a politician – I ground it to dust on the tablecloth. None of the owners or waiters saw or complained, since they were sitting at one of the few outside tables smoking cigarettes they weren’t allowed to smoke on their own property.

Yes, the smoking ban has arrived in Greece, and the bansturbators have won another battle for totalitarianism. I wrote a letter to this paper before about it and there they were, whingeing about their clothes smelling of cigarette smoke after they’ve been in a bar, totally ignoring the point that in many cases their choice is likely to be a bar that allows smoking or no bar at all.
So, there you have it: until such a time as I see ashtrays back on the tables of this restaurant I have enjoyed for a couple of years, I won’t be eating there. It’s a shame but what can I do? Just as so many pub owners (or rather, erstwhile pub owners) have discovered in Britain, a lot of people don’t protest loudly enough, but given the opportunity always vote with their feet.
I wish I was living in a British or a Greek democracy but, really, in Europe democracy drew its last terminal-smoker asthmatic breath about twenty years ago as the EU project built up momentum.

Understand this, Cretans, in five years time there will be no smoking licences and there will be no exceptions, and the bansturbators will be after your raki next. Do you for one moment think all those stills, all that unregistered, unmonitored and most importantly, untaxed fun is in any way part of the EU plan?


Neal Asher