Sunday, February 28, 2010
Nice review here of Orbus from Alex Cull.
Ever since reading Neal Asher’s The Skinner back in 2003, I have thought that the Prador (a race of enjoyably nasty and warlike crustacean-analogues from deep space) are among some of the best SF baddies to emerge since Terry Nation invented the Daleks. Furthermore I have believed it was high time that they had a whole novel to themselves, more or less, without any danger of the planet Spatterjay’s entertainingly horrible and ruthless oceanic fauna stealing the show. Asher’s 2006 novel Prador Moon came close to accomplishing this, the one caveat being that it was all too short, but at 438 pages, Orbus hits the bull’s-eye.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Now in what branches of 'science' might this approach be applicable nowadays? One specific example springs to mind but, really, the answer is 'all of them'.
Update: And in the spirit of Feynman (or should I say the bloody obvious), the Institute of Physics has come out of the closet.
These are the traits of groupthink (Janis, 1977). Where do we see them?
1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
Incidentally, a 'flat-earther' is he or she who did not question the general consensus.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Becoming an Editor
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Update: You can subscribe to the email newsletter or get the RSS feed up in the top lefthand corner here.
I'm apparently: 'a laser hen', or maybe I 'share elan', whilst Caroline is a 'rascal heroine'.
Meanwhile 'A future fair for all' = 'Our fearful fat liar' who happens to be 'born dog worn'.
BARRY N MALZBERG
THE FALLING ASTRONAUTS
THE MEN INSIDE
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN
A SONG FOR LYA
THE GOLDEN TORC
THE NON-BORN KING
JACK THE BODILESS
TO HOLD INFINITY
R. M. MELUCH
THE IRON COUNCIL
THE HORSE LORD
THE DEMON LORD
THE DRAGON LORD
THE WARLORD’S DOMAIN
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Prador are amphibious crustaceans with flattened pear-shaped shells with scalloped rims and a raised visual turret at the broad end that houses several pairs of red spider-like eyes, some of which are on movable stalks. Prador move about on six long legs, each terminating in a wicked spike. The rear pair of legs fall off when adolescent Prador make the transition to adults, exposing their sexual organs in the process.
Along their underside Prador have four manipulatory arms, each ending in a hand described as "a complex arrangement of hooks and fingers". These hands are highly dexterous and capable of fine manipulation, just like a human hand. It appears Prador can use all four hands to perform different tasks simultaneously, such as drawing and firing four different weapons at separate targets. Above these are the two heavy "working claws"; large crab-claw limbs that can easily cut through tough materials and crush human bones.
Prador feed with a set of dangerous mandibles, capable of grasping, cutting and chewing flesh. Prador are carnivorous, and mostly feed on decaying flesh, primarily harvested from giant mudskippers farmed on their homeworld. Adult Prador are very fond of human flesh, however, and many humans are bred just for this purpose, although by the end of the book The Skinner, this practice has begun to decline.
Prador shells are particularly tough, able to withstand impacts and small arms fire, but they seem quite vulnerable to energy weapons and heat, which can cause the shells to burst open.And here's their entry about me.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This now meant that I had to get Gabbleducks ready for publication this year, which I've done. It transformed somewhat in the telling and has now turned into The Technician. Julie now has that book and I'm chewing my fingernails waiting for a response on it. But this also means I've hit a bit of a hiatus. I am, effectively, a year ahead of schedule, so what do I do now?
Here are the choices I've considered: I could begin the next book in The Owner series, I could produce some short stories, I could pull that fantasy trilogy out of my files and start work on that, or I could set to work on writing a book about mine and Caroline's adventures in Crete - based on my journal entries - for which I already have the title: Cicada Scream.
I recently got an email from Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books in which he wondered if I might consider having a crack at something else for them: a new series, maybe a fantasy - something different to help me penetrate the American market. The fantasy, which I've always wanted to rework but have never got round to, falls into that category. So, if I set to work on that I've got a target market, though frankly I wouldn't expect difficulties selling it elsewhere.
So, right now I'm typing into my computer all my Crete journal entries in preparation for writing Cicada Scream. This will be a project I'll work on with no finish date in mind. This evening I'll print up the first book of the fantasy, The Staff of Sorrows, read it through and begin working on it with a pencil. More needs to be done than tidying up the English. The whole thing needs to lose its hackneyed fantasy clothing and there's some big structural changes that need to be made too.
These I'll work on until the time comes for me to edit The Technician. After that I'm not sure how I'll proceed, just a case of wait and see.
You see, I can make plans.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Thing is, whilst there were a couple of really enjoyable books here, and the idea of Dexter is all down to Lindsay, I find the TV series a lot better. I think that the TV version nailed the essence of it, of Dexter, which was in the first two books, and definitely not in the last one. You may think it odd me feeling that straying into fantastical territory was the wrong thing to do here, if you do, then go read my post about UFOs again.
Alastair Reynolds produces few duds, which means I'll always buy his next book, and I've heard good things about this one.
Always loved Greg Egan's stuff, but it's sadly lacking in my collection. Reading the first bit of the blurb 'A million years from now...' was quite enough.
Greg Bear is another writer I've always liked, and I looked up this one when I found it on the Salamander Award shortlist with The Skinner, and thought then that I really should buy it.
I very much enjoyed Eric Brown's stories in Interzone, many years ago, and it's quite daft that I've never read one of his books. And reading the blurb of this it looks like this is an oversight I'm going to enjoy correcting.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Since Barry hasn't been able to supply a picture of himself, I've found one for him.
My name is Barry Arrowsmith and I'm a Science Fiction addict.
How did I sink to this degraded state?
It all started so innocently....
Imagine.... it's the late 1940s and a small boy has his ear glued to to a hissing, crackly radio. For what? For Dan Dare on Radio Luxembourg of course.
That was me, and it was the start of a life-long love, bordering on obsession, with SF. The obsession got fed too, what with beeb radio pulling in massive audiences with 'Day of the Triffids' and 'Journey into Space', and when TV started becoming the broadcast medium of choice, with 'Quatermass'. All quality stuff, but then there was a bit of a gap until 1963 and 'Dr Who'. How to satisfy the cravings?
Well, there were the Saturday morning matinees at the local flea-pit, the 'tanner rush' as it was known, for the weekly dose of Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon. You could see the wires holding the model space-ships up, and the smoke from the rocket-ship engines always rose vertically, even in the depths of space, but who the hell cared?
Next Monday in the playground you too could be a Clayman.
Next step, comics. The Eagle (more Dan Dare) and then there were those oh so rare and coveted imports from the US. Then books. Those started with a Christmas present - 'Death of Metal' by Donald Suddaby (wish I still had it, but it fell apart decades ago). With strictly limited pocket-money real hardbacked books were beyond my means, but at the local market there was a stall that sold the trashiest second- hand SF paperbacks you ever did see. I loved it. Covers plastered with panicking girls in brass brassieres and everybody wearing goldfish bowls. The local library also helped fill the gaps with (among others) those wonderful old Bleiler & Dickty short story collections. Grabbed every one I could as soon as it appeared on the shelves, 'cos with a bit of luck there might be an Eric Frank Russell story in there.
Of course as you age and cash isn't so tight, discrimination kicks in. (It's either that or the fact that brass brassieres on covers went out of fashion, though the reaction to Carrie Fisher as a chained Princess Leia showed that there's an eager market for this stuff out there. Yummy!) So, it was time to switch to Penguin SF, the Gollancz SF yellow-jackets and the more sophisticated stuff.
Then in 1981 I inadvertently went sort-of cold turkey on SF. Working out in Saudi for 9 years, and back then there was no SF available out there. That's not why I went of course, but it was one of the consequences. Worse, I'd cleared my bookcases of all fiction prior to storage for the rest before I went. Wish I hadn't. Impossible to replace some of those books, at least for a price I can afford.
Back home in 1990, the cravings still persist, and 20 minutes away is a place of pilgrimage - Rog Peyton's Andromeda bookshop. Oh, bliss. All those lovely imports - Vernor Vinge, David Weber, Greg Bear, Gibson, plus the new generation of UK authors when they came along - Reynolds, Stross, Morgan, Stephenson and that Asher feller. Shelves looking healthy again now, about 1500 SF titles, half of them hardback. So I'm main-lining again.
One thing, when you accumulate a lot of books you need to add them onto your contents insurance. Replacement would be bloody expensive, just work it out. But - and this is the good bit - you'll probably be asked to value them (they like titles worth over about £50 to be listed) and that's when you find that a volume you bought for the cover price 20 years ago is now worth a bomb. How nice. Gives you a really fine glow. Signed, dated 1st/1st 'Revelation Space'? signed 1st/1st 'Altered Carbon'? 1st/1st Touchstone ed. of 'The Prestige'? Add a few more and your bookshelves are more valuable than your furnishings. Not just the new books you bought, either. Try pricing a VG+/VG+ Compton Russell hardback of Niven's 'Protector', it's slightly more than the 69p I paid in Oxfam. Rarer than hen's teeth; rarer even than 'Mason's Rats'. Do I have a copy of 'Rats'? Erm... yes, got one from an Amazon re-seller last month. Cost me a tenner - but what the hell, it's only money.
No photos, I'm afraid. As a tech fan I'm a disgrace. No camera, no mobile phone, not even a TV. I spend so much time lost in books, you see.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Time to sit back now, take a breath, and start looking at the the next one.
Incidentally, more questions for the next video clip please, but no more: "When are we going to see so and so again?" or "What's next?" I've already covered that The Technician comes out next August, The Departure comes out the year after and meanwhile I'll be writing the series of books that come after the latter.
Monday, February 15, 2010
I thought this was going to be crap, but it's come across more natural, probably because I just read the questions and answered off the cuff - no notes or answers written down.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I'm 29 years old, grew up on a Cattle Ranch in South Texas. I attended Texas A&M University. I've read all my life, started with Jurassic Park, Congo type novels around 2-3rd grade. Kept reading all the time. I got addicted to SCI FI in college when I found a little resale book shop that had two complete walls dedicated to SCI FI, I started reading every work done by Sir Arthur C Clark, devoured his works. I was averaging about one novel every two days. Once I graduated I worked and still read on and off over the next few years. Eventually I went to work in the Oil Field, I work on the big platforms that are out in the Gulf of Mexico drilling for oil. Well when you get off of work, you have a lot of time to read, no grass to mow, no garden to tend, so I read, and read and read, I would average 15 books in a 21 day period. Well when the world changing Hurricane Katrina came into the gulf and set its sites on New Orleans, our rig was evacuated, during the evacuation we spent 5 days in a hotel with no power, I had run out of books, so I found a little book store and picked up Peter F Hamilton's "Fallen Dragon" and thats how I found the "Space Opera" Genre. While searching for his books on Amazon UK, it recommended some of your books, I started with Gridlinked, and then Line of Polity, well while waiting for my next few Asher's i have been reading the Max Brook's fiction "World War Z". I have all of your Cormac novels, and Brass man is in queue after my current read of "Zombie Survival Guide". I love you style of writing, it reminds me of Louis Lamour, he wrote westerns here in the states. Well thats my reading history, heres my bio stuff. I have a wife who reads as much as I do, and love video games, a 2.5 year old daughter who loves to be read to. I'm working my way through the compilation of ACC short stories and she really enjoys them. I have two dogs a Chihuahua that reminds me of Shuriken, and a laborador mix. Please find attached some pictures of myself. I will send one more email tommorrow with a picture of my Asher Books lined up. Thanks for being a down to earth guy.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
NASA scientists found evidence for life on Mars. Then they changed their minds
On July 20, 1976, the Viking landers scooped up some Martian soil and mixed it with radioactive nutrients. The mission's scientists all agreed that if radioactive methane was released from the soil, something must be eating the nutrients – and there must be life on Mars. The experiment gave a positive result, but NASA denied an official detection of Martian life. Today, there is even more evidence that something is creating methane on Mars. Is it life? The Viking experiment suggests it was. Martin Rees, England’s astronomer royal, calls the search for extraterrestrial life the most important scientific endeavour of our time. But have we already found it?
Apparently, the reason they changed their minds was due to readings from another instrument on the Viking mission that searched for traces of carbon in the Martian soil and found none. The verdict about life remains unchanged despite it being known that the second instrument couldn't even detect large quantities of carbon here on Earth. It was a dud, but as we are learning every day now, scientists protecting their backsides quickly lose any acquaintance with the truth.
The next 'thing' was this:
Has ET already been in touch?
It was an electromagnetic pulse that came from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation. It lasted 37 seconds and had exactly the characteristics predicted for an alien signal. Maybe that’s why, on 15 August 1977 it caused astronomer Jerry Ehman to scrawl "Wow!" on the printout from Big Ear, Ohio State University's radio telescope in Delaware. The nearest star in that direction is 220 light years away. If that really is where is came from, it would have had to be a pretty powerful astronomical event - or an advanced alien civilisation using an astonishingly large and powerful transmitter. More than 30 years later, its origin remains a mystery.
After much consideration, wondering what method aliens would use to attract attention, researchers decided that a radio signal at precisely 1,420 MHz - the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe - would be the best choice. That's precisely what they got. It also came from an area of space completely devoid of stars, maybe from a spaceship?
What do you think about this? The easiest thing to do is err on the side of doubt. I mean, lakes of methane on Titan aren't immediately pointed at as evidence of life there. And frankly, that signal could have come from Earth and been bounced back by some phenomena much more likely than a passing alien spaceship.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
HERE IN COLD HELL
THE STORM LORD
WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUT
THE BOOK OF THE BEAST
KILL THE DEAD
EAST OF MIDNIGHT
SILVER METAL LOVER
CAST A BRIGHT SHADOW
URSULA K LEGUIN
PLANET OF EXILE
EYE OF THE HERON
BARRY M LONGYEAR
RICHARD A LUPOFF
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Stopping drinking wasn't a problem, in fact, we looked forwards to it, almost as if bored with it. We didn't get any cravings and neither of us concealed any bottles of Vodka anywhere. The noticeable effect was a lack of hangovers and a tendency to sleep throughout the night, not wake up in the early hours. How it affected our health otherwise I don't know - I had a cold throughout most of January so couldn't really tell.
Last night we cracked a bottle of red wine and shared it. Did I really enjoy it having been abstinent for so long? Not really. It seemed watery, tea would have been better, and we finished the bottle more as a matter of form than because we were relishing it. I don't think I'm going to bother with it much now. I'll have a drink on my birthday tomorrow, and I'll toast my brother at his wake on the 8th. Of course I rather think that the chilled carafe of wine down by our local beach on Crete is going to be a different matter...
Hi, my name’s Bob Lock and I’m an alcoholic... oh wait, wrong forum!
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
What do you think?