Monday, November 30, 2009
Oh how we love our monsters, as does Asher. More importantly, he knows how to put them to work in a novel, in this case, 'Orbus,' where the main character, the title character is a creature that most normal humans would say is utterly monstrous. But he's just the tip of the iceberg here. What Asher excels at is giving readers sympathetic monsters, giving us the comic relief characters who are AI "subminds," sprouting tentacles and spewing bile. These are the "good guys" in Asher's universe. And the good are just as grotesque and deformed as the bad; sometimes they're also as bad as the bad. Situational ethics have permeated the fabric of Asher's Polity universe.
And here at concatentation:
Is this Asher’s best book? Not from a question of plot, characterisation, and action? But more importantly, from the viewpoint of the writing itself, and his control over his own labours. Maybe he just keeps getting better which makes you wonder what his next book might be like, because Orbus is a cracker from start to finish.
Thank you very much.
Update (because of Mark Chitty's comment): There will be a book next year - I just have to work harder on the one I'm presently writing so it's ready for then. The two titles will simply be swapping places in the publishing schedule.
The runners up are Vaudeviewgalor Randisraisins (try saying that without taking a breath) for his psychedelic glister, which touches on the fact that if you eat glister brains it makes you high, and Robert McGregor for his gabbleduck. Regarding the latter: this is not really the image in my head but, if I’d seen it before I’d started writing about gabbleducks, it would have been.
So, now I have to get the prizes to the various winners. Please, if any of you three are reading this, email me with your addresses at ndotasheratvirgindotnet.
First tell us why you have chosen the story you have.
Neal: It’s the first gabbleduck story I had published in which I start to look more closely at the weirdness of them, and I like it.
Do you think that your Polity is a relatively accurate in its depiction of the relationships between men and machines, or is it just a heap-load of fun?
Neal: In the context of the Polity I try to suspend the reader’s disbelief as best I can but, frankly, if an accurate depiction of the relationship between man and machine was boring I’d drop it like scorpion sandwich. Always, with me, entertainment first. That being said I do think we will develop artificial intelligence and still be questioning what the Hell it is (hence the odd reference in my books to the X-hundreds of revisions of the Turing test); we will be attaching up our wetware to hardware and probably, in years to come, be walking about with memory extensions, increased processing and modems inside our heads. Perhaps a more likely scenario than the machines taking over is that the lines will become so blurred we’ll be almost indistinguishable from them.
It's mentioned on your website and in a number of other places that you've tried writing fantasy on a few occasions. Is this still a genre you'd like to get into?
Neal: All those years ago, when I made the decision to pursue this profession, my first aim was to write the good old fantasy trilogy, which I did, along with the first book of a second trilogy. At that point, despite having an agent for a short while, I remained unpublished but didn’t want to stop writing. I thought it pointless continuing with the second trilogy when the first had yet to be placed so turned elsewhere, first doing a contemporary novel (also sitting in my files) then to the British small presses where I got my first successes writing short SF. From that it was a natural progression to longer works, steadily growing success until taken on by Macmillan. I write SF because I enjoy it more now, and I’m known for it and it sells, but one day I will have a go at rewriting the fantasy books, mostly because they are just unfinished business.
Mason's Rats is your other most published 'universe'. What was the inspiration behind this? It's like the Rats of NIMH done in a classic BBC1 comedy style…
Neal: They’re not really my ‘other most published’ since there’s only three short stories, but they seem to be stories a lot of people have enjoyed. The inspiration? I guess living in rural
It's been said to me '
Neal: Well, I hope so – I try. I like my monsters as much as many others do and whilst trying to make them fit properly into some alien ecology I like to also venture into that mythical territory occupied by snarks and jabberwocks. Monsters are fascinating and fun when they’re in a book or film, hence the success of such human monsters as Hannibal Lector and others like the H R Giger Alien. Even in the real world they remain fascinating, hence the interest in serial murderers and surfer-gobbling white sharks. Just not so much fun, though.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The fermented mash is then loaded into the raki still and distilled. The result, raki, is a bit like grappa and is not ouzo. What you get is pure alcohol (with a bit of water) rather like whisky before it’s spent time in a sherry barrel to give it extra flavour and colour.
This stuff is made all over the island, even small villages will sometimes have three or four different raki stills. Some is for personal consumption and some for sale. We can buy Ziros raki from from a garage just a few miles away. It costs 4.50 Euro for a litre and a half. I’ve visited the place often enough now that I just go round the back to the barrels and fill up my bottles myself. It is also frequently a gift, along with olive oil, when eating with Greeks. In kafenions you can buy a karavache of raki for 1.50 Euro, which gives you about five good shots. Along with this you’ll also get mezes (usually for free) – plates of usually seasonal food: cold cooked broad beans and segments of sweetcorn, olives (always), raw broad beans, pear and apple, peanuts, tomato and cucumber sprinkled with sea salt, artichoke hearts with lemon juice and salt, cooked ‘horta’ … the list is a long one.
When the Cretans run a kazani (I’m still not sure what this name applies to: the still, the place where the still is located, or the party they have there) they usually fire it with olive wood. Since distilling sometimes hundreds of litres of raki takes some time they make an occasion of it. Guests are invited, raki glasses are never allowed to grow empty, and either on the fire or on a barbecue made with hot coals plenty of food is cooked – brisolas (marinated belly pork), baked potatoes, roast sweetcorn, chestnuts, sausage, rabbit, garlic bread – whilst other raw veg and fruit is also provided – pomegranites, cabbage with lemon juice and salt, artichoke hearts etc.
We’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to a number of these kazanis. The first picture is of the still at a Greek friends house (the guy standing there is Mikalis – excellent fellow). We’re also fortunate enough to have one of these stills located about thirty feet from our front door – a good staggering distance. The second picture is of that.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Borders UK, the bookshop chain, went into administration last night, putting 1,150 jobs at risk and raising the prospect of a firesale before Christmas.
It also seems we might not be seeing further issues of Deathray, which is a shame:
As some of you may have heard, and others who popped along the shops to pick up the latest issue of Filmstar may have feared, Blackfish's two magazines, Filmstar and Death Ray, are currently 'on hold'. What this means is that there will not be another issue of either of them along for a number of weeks – or, likely, months. Indeed, whether there will ever be another issue of either is a moot point, and at this moment in time impossible to answer. But we hope so.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Thanks to Julie and Chloe at Macmillan the prizes are these:
1st place: A signed proof copy of Orbus, a signed copy of The Gabble and signed brand new reissues (with the new covers) of Gridlinked, The Skinner, Cowl & The Line of Polity.
2nd & 3rd place: A signed proof copy of Orbus and a signed copy of The Gabble each.
Another place for signed copies is Chelmsford. There's about forty books divided between the two branches of Waterstones and the W H Smiths there.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Cockermouth – Rivers Cocker and Derwent
Cockermouth at the confluence of the Rivers Derwent and Cocker has been designated a ‘gem’ town by the Council for British Archaeology to be preserved as part of the National Heritage. It has an extensive conservation area within the town and numerous listed buildings/structures. The Flood Warning Area covers an urban area of 0.77 square kilometres. Number of Properties at Risk in FWA 574
Earliest recorded flooding was in 1761, since then flooding has occurred in 1771, 1852, 1874, 1918, 1931, 1932, 1938, 1966, 1999 and 2005. (and now)
In 1938 flooding under
On 7th and 8 th January 2005, although the River Cocker was in spate with a return period of 1 in 25 years, the main source of flooding was the overtopping of the defences by the River Derwent with a return period estimated at 1 in 100 years.
... Flooding then extended onto the northern half of the
Note the parts I’ve highlighted. These things are cyclical and the only reason they are getting worse in Britain (if they are) is because we’ve concreted over vast swathes of this country and the water has no where to soak away. But come on now – this sort of thing, historically – was not uncommon:
and how about
I loved my Laptop Steering Wheel Desk so much I got one for my 90yr old mother. She is an avid crossword puzzle fan and now she can work on them while she is driving back and forth from bingo at the senior center. One cautionary note be careful of those jerks that stop at yellow lights, my poor mother rear ended one and the airbag drove the desk back into her stomach which ruptured her spleen, well after a short down time I'm glad to say she is back on the road and cranking out those NY Times crosswords once again. Thanks Laptop Steering Wheel Desk you have made my mothers life more complete.
Wow is this thing great! I use it as a "mini-bar" when the friends and I go out to the bars. I can quickly fix multiple shots of tequila for myself and the friends as we drive from one bar to the next. We also discovered that if you place a pillow on top of it and turn on the cruise control you can catch quick naps on the interstate. If you swerve to the left or right the rumble strips on the road wake you up in plenty of time before you get into trouble. I can now take longer trips without being tired!
Also, i am now dating a midget and she fits nicely on the steering wheel desk which allows us to experiment sexually while driving. This thing is like WD-40 or duct tape, it is a million and one uses!
There's 270 reviews like this. Gives me hope for the human race.
Update: 187 reviews here of a Bic pen.
Here's an article I wrote quite some years ago. I probably did it at around about the time films like Armageddon were doing the rounds since it seem likely the reporter or the news story concerned was looking for something 'topical'.
WHO THREW THAT?
So, on February the 1st 2019 there is a chance, cosmically speaking, of a large lump of rock slamming into Earth. According to ‘expert opinion’, so the media told us on the morning of this announcement, this thing is a mile and half wide and will impact with enough force to wipe out a country the size of Britain. This was then upgraded, within an hour, to be one capable of wiping out the
At present, measurements are not yet accurate enough to tell us precisely what will happen. The asteroid will probably miss us completely and go round for another try in ex-thousand years time. What is certain is that measurements will become more and more accurate as the asteroid draws closer. Personally, I hope that they show, in the near future, that the asteroid is certain to impact. This is not because I am a nihilist, but because such a state of affairs would impel the kind of hard technological advances not seen since the World Wars. We have the time and ability to stop this thing, but we would have to get off our arses to do so. Such a threat could pump huge amounts of cash, heretofore blown on military spending and idiot bureaucracy, into giving us a firmer foothold in space. Resultant developments would be hugely beneficial and solid – we would not be able to afford the dipstick mistakes that have wasted the last few Mars’ missions – and I can see that how once the rock is blown off course there’ll be no turning back. Suddenly we’ll be dwellers in a huge and hostile universe, not post-Copernican Earthlings. And even those grandads saying, “Well, we didn’t have those new-fangled asteroid thingies in my day,” will have to sit up and take notice.
For the SF writer there are other situations to extrapolate. Taking the phrase ‘capable of wiping-out the
Taking an even larger and more tongue-in-cheek view, one might even wonder about the timing. Consider how fortunate we were to have a moon that strips away atmosphere thus preventing this planet going catastrophically greenhouse and ending up like Venus – a moon that also gives tides so that life developing in the water will certainly also end up on land. Previous impacts wiped out life forms that would not have led to us. The asteroid that drove the dinosaurs extinct ended the 160 million-year reign of creatures that showed no signs of growing brains larger than peanuts. Aptly-timed ice ages then led to the survival of creatures with an interest in banging rocks together. A hundred years ago we would have been unable to do anything about the approaching cataclysm, moreover, probably would not even have detected it.
This is all obviously the determinist 20/20 hindsight of the bible-thumping trench survivor: “God loves me, that’s why the shrapnel took the top off of Harry’s head and not mine.” But it’s just as obvious that the aliens sent this rock, and that we have seventeen years in which to prove ourselves fit to join the galactic community.
Friday, November 20, 2009
This was passed onto me from my brother Bob. It's on Tom's Guide.
In September, we reported that Boeing successfully defeated a ground target using its Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft. Now the company has shown its laser prowess again by tracking and destroying small, unmanned aerial vehicles in the air. A single laser beam, fired by the U.S. Air Force-sponsored Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX), shot down five UAVs at various ranges.
Squids in space next maybe?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
However, some while ago someone directed my attention to The Book Depository which states on its website Free worldwide delivery on every book. If you go on there and stick my name in the search you get most of my books, and they're even discounted. For example, you can buy a copy of Gridlinked, in its nice new cover, for £4.75 including postage and packing. Still suspicious I checked out the 'to these location' bit and the USA is there. In fact there's a huge list of countries there. They also use Paypal.
Now, I haven't used The Book Depository myself so don't know how good it is or how true the promises on the website. I believe others have used it and been satisfied. Please, if any of you reading this do buy books through them, let me know how it went.
Dave is the assistant manager of both branches of Waterstone's in Woking and tells me that since this picture The Engineer Recondition is back in stock as well as Runcible Tales, and that Cowl is flying off the shelves in its new jacket. So, if any of you reading this are in the Woking area, go buy books in Waterstones!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Okay, a little while ago I finished The Departure, wrote a couple of synopses and some blurbs for it, then sent it off to Macmillan. Good response from the commissioning editor (bloody marvelous). Here’s one of the blurbs for you:
Like Wellsian war machines the shepherds stride into riots to grab up the ringleaders and drag them off to Inspectorate HQ for adjustment, unless they are in shredding mode, in which case their captives visit community digesters, or rather whatever of them has not been washed down the street drains.
Pain inducers are used for adjustment, and soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human beings need to die before Earth can be stabilized, but by turning large portions of Earth into concentration camps this is achievable, especially when the Argus satellite laser network comes fully online…
Alan Saul has taken a different route to disposal, waking as he does inside a crate on the conveyor into the
Not sure if this is what will be appearing on the back of the book, but it gives you a taste of what it’s all about.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
A small NASA spacecraft and its companion rocket did indeed strike water when they slammed into a permanently shadowed crater at the moon’s south pole, NASA announced November 13.
Water available on the moon means the possibility of a base like the one depicted in that old series Space 1999. And we're not talking about a bit of damp here:
But analyses since then reveal that the impact kicked up at least 100 kilograms of water vapor and ice, or 25 gallons. LCROSS project scientist Anthony Colaprete of the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., reported the finding during a briefing at Ames.
Go read the whole article at Science News.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Here's a couple of books I read recently, both with generally the same theme: those who once considered or a certain political persuasion discovering that they no longer recognize their own political club. Their club has become authoritarian, turned the word 'liberal' into a dirty word and has devalued the word 'racism'. Following through on its hate of Western civilization (though mainly America) and an ill-defined guilt about being born there, it also now supports, by making it an offense even to criticise them, fascist fundamentalists who oppress women, would kill homosexuals and aim to crush us all under a hellish theocratic regime. Through multiculturalism it has created divisions in society, reinforced by positive discrimination, which is 'discrimination' still. All those battles fought by the lib/left for women's rights, homosexual rights, for freedom and against racism, all turned on their head and thrown away.
Of the two I find the Andrews' book clearer and more cogent. Both books, however, have the power to make you angry by neatly collating and slapping down in black and white those things you probably already know. Unless you're still a member of that club, that is.
"Just watched this shortfilmish, and could not help thinking about Jain technology"
Here then is a link to Steel Life by Mathieu Gerard.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Okay, first up has to be this one over at Walker of Worlds (Mark Chitty) . It being 10/10 I guess you can understand why I like it. Then there's Meirion's review over at Book Geeks which is gratifying because here's a first-time reader of my stuff.
But, if these are far too nice for you, go find the Strange Horizons review of Orbus, for the 'this is shit because he's not politically correct, the book is bloated and he's a crap writer'.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Ian Whates, who edited the Subterfuge anthology published October 2008 will be producing another one called Conflicts due for publication in April. Here, as of two weeks ago is the provisional running order:
Psi.Copath – Andy Remic
The Maker’s Mark – Michael Cobley
Sussed – Keith Brooke
The Cuisinart Effect – Neal Asher
Harmony in My Head – Rosanne Rabinowitz
Our Land – Chris Beckett
Fallout – Gareth L. Powell
Proper Little Soldier – Martin McGrath
War Without End – Una McCormack
Dissimulation Procedure – Eric Brown
In the Long Run – David L. Clements
Last Orders – Jim Mortimore
Songbirds – Martin Sketchley
Maybe there’ll be another of those signed limited editions as there was with Subterfuge. I’ll let you know more about this when I know too. But maybe Ian is a bit busy since he acquired John Jarrold as an agent last year and is involved with Ian Watson producing The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories…
Just a note on all the pictures submitted over the last year: I'll be taking a fresh look at them all at the end of the month and choosing the winner and runners up. Cheers!
Here you have the Shoal, who control FTL technology and consequently rule a large portion of the galaxy because other races, without FTL, have become their clients. But these deep sea fish lied about being the only ones with FTL, of course they did, lying seems par for the course with a race whose arch manipulator has named itself ‘Trader in the faecal matter of animals’ (bullshit to the uninitiated). Now the Emissaries are on the scene and it’s beginning to look like Nova War is unavoidable. Oh bugger.