Thursday, December 19, 2013

Totalitarian Europe

How about this for a bit of totalitarianism from the EU? This is from the Tobacco Products Directive and part of the stifling regulations they propose to bring into law.

5. Member States shall ensure that:

a) Commercial communications with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers are prohibited in information society services as defined in Article 1(2) of Directive 98/48/EC, in the press and other printed publications, with the exception of publications that are intended exclusively for professionals in the trade of the products and for publications which are printed and published in third countries, where those publications are not principally intended for the European Union market;

b)Commercial communications with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers are prohibited in the radio;

c)Any form of public or private contribution to radio programmes with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers is prohibited;

d) Any form of public or private contribution to any event, activity or individual with the aim or direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes and refill containers and involving or taking place in several Member States or otherwise having cross-border effects is prohibited;

e) Audiovisual commercial communications falling under Directive 2010/13/EU are prohibited for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;

You would think this is about something bad for you, like cigarettes, rather than about something that has allowed 7 million people across Europe to either quit smoking or cut down on their smoking. Do you see what the above means? A health revolution akin to the invention of the Polio vaccine must not be advertised, anywhere.

If you, as an individual, have given up smoking by using an ecig you are not allowed to talk about it on radio, on the TV or in the newspapers, or here on the Internet. All the media – newspapers, TV, radio, Internet – is to be gagged because if anyone in them talks about ecigs in any other terms than them being the product of Satan that will be the ‘direct or indirect effect of promoting electronic cigarettes’. The ‘cross-border effect’ can be ignored, since newspapers, TV, radio & Internet cross all borders. In fact most of the posts I have on this blog concerning ecigs will be prohibited. Meetings of ecig enthusiasts will be banned and ecig fairs will be prohibited, since just one tweet would make it ‘cross-border’.

Welcome to the future as it increasingly looks like The Departure

Here's my Vamo which I recommend to anyone who wants to try quitting smoking.


Fuck EU.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SF Writing Contest

This is from Start Publishing and of course I had to put it here!


With the great success of our last contest, we would like to continue to offer the opportunity to inspire more writers. This time we ask that you write a 500-word short story using Neal Asher’s The Departure book cover as a starting topic. Ask yourself, what do you see in the image? Let your imagination take over.

Our publishing team will select the best 5 stories. The stories selected will then be posted to our blog page. We will host open votes on Facebook, Twitter and by email. The story with the most votes will win.

Winner will receive a signed blue ray copy of The Europa Report produced by Start Motion Pictures (formally known as Wayfare Entertainment) and poster. Deadline for all submissions will be January 13, 2014. Once all submissions are received we will announce when the voting polls will be open for the public. Please note, if your story does not have a title we will not accept your submission, as the title and author name will be used for voting.

Please send all submissions and inquiries to contest@start-media.com

Beans



Okay, I nearly wet myself laughing at this.

Viscount Ridley’s Speech on Ecigs in the House of Lords

Viscount Ridley (Con):
 
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Astor, on securing this debate. It is an issue of much greater importance than the sparse attendance might imply and one that is growing in importance. I have no interest to declare in electronic cigarettes: I dislike smoking and have never done it. I have only once tried a puff on an e-cigarette, which did nothing for me. I am interested in this issue as a counterproductive application of the precautionary principle. I should say that I am indebted to Ian Gregory of Centaurus Communications for some of the facts and figures that I will cite shortly.
There are, at the moment, about 1 million people in this country using electronic cigarettes, and there has been an eightfold increase in the past year in the number of people using them to try to quit smoking. Already, 15% of ex-smokers have tried them, and they have overtaken nicotine patches and other approaches to become the top method of quitting in a very short time. The majority of those who use electronic cigarettes to try to quit smoking say that they are successful.

Here we have a technology that is clearly saving lives on a huge scale. If only 10% of the 1 million users in the country are successful in quitting, that would save £7 billion, according to the Department of Health figures given in answer to my Written Question last month, which suggest that the health benefits of each attempt to quit are £74,000. In that Answer, Minister said that,
“a policy of licensing e-cigarettes would have to create very few additional successful quit attempts for the benefits to justify its costs”.—[Official Report, 18/11/13; col. WA172.]

But who thinks that licensing will create extra quit attempts? By adding to the cost of e-cigarettes, by reducing advertising and by unglamorising them, it is far more likely that licensing will create fewer quit attempts. Will the Minister therefore confirm that, by the same token, a policy of licensing e-cigarettes would have to reduce quit attempts by a very small number for that policy to be a mistake?
Nicotine patches are also used to reduce smoking and they have been medicinally regulated, but there has been extraordinarily little innovation in them and low take-up over the years. Does the Minister agree with the report by Professor Peter Hajek in the Lancet earlier this year, which said that the 30-year failure of nicotine patches demonstrated how the expense and delays caused by medicinal regulation can stifle innovation? Does my noble friend also agree with analysts from Wells Fargo who this month said that if e-cigarette innovation is stifled: “this could dramatically slow down conversion from combustible cigarettes”?

We should try a thought experiment. Let us divide the country in two. In one half—let us call it east Germany for the sake of argument—we regulate e-cigarettes as medicines, ban their use in public places, restrict advertising, ban the sale of refillable versions, and ban the sale of e-cigarettes stronger than 20 milligrams per millilitre. In the other half, which we will call west Germany, we leave them as consumer products, properly regulated as such, allow them to be advertised as glamorous, allow them on trains and in pubs, allow the sale of refills, allow the sale of flavoured ones, and allow stronger products. In which of these two parts of the country would smoking fall fastest? It is blindingly obvious that the east would see higher prices—and prices are a serious deterrent to attempts to quit smoking because many of the people who smoke are poorer than the average. We would see less product innovation, slower growth of e-cigarette use and more people going back to real cigarettes because of their inability to get hold of the type, flavour and strength that they wanted. Therefore, more people would quit smoking in the western half of the country.

What are the drawbacks of such a policy? There is a risk of harm from electronic cigarettes, as we have heard. How big is that risk? The Minister confirmed to me in a Written Answer earlier this year that the best evidence suggests that they are 1,000 times less dangerous than cigarettes. The MHRA impact assessment says that the decision on whether to regulate e-cigarettes should be based on the harm that they do. Yet that very impact statement says that, “any risk is likely to be very small”,
that there is, “an absence of empirical evidence” and “no direct clinical evidence”, that “the picture is unclear”, and—my favourite quote—states: “Unfortunately, we have no evidence”, of harm.

There is said to be a risk of children taking up e-cigarettes and then turning to real cigarettes. Just think about that for a second. For every child who goes from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, there would there have to be 1,000 going the other way, from e-cigarettes to cigarettes, for this to do any net harm. The evidence suggests, as my noble friend Lord Borwick has said, that the gateway is the other way. Some 20% of 15 year-olds smoke, and evidence from ASH and a study in Oklahoma suggests strongly that when young people use electronic cigarettes they do so to quit, just like adults do.

If we are to take a precautionary approach to the risks of nicotine, will the Minister consider regulating aubergines as medicines? They also contain nicotine. If you eat 10 grams of aubergine, which you easily could with a plateful of moussaka, you will absorb the same amount of nicotine as if you shared a room with a cigarette smoker for three hours. It is not an insignificant quantity. That is data from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993. If we are worried about unknown and small risks, can the Minister explain to me why, as Professor Hajek, put it, more dangerous chemicals, such as bleach, rely on packaging and common sense rather than on medicinal licensing?

There has been approximately an 8% reduction in the use of tobacco in Europe in the past year. The tobacco companies are worried. A big part of that reduction seems to be because of the rapid take-up of electronic cigarettes. They are facing their Kodak moment—the moment when their whole technology is replaced by a rival technology that, in this case, is 1,000 times safer. Does my noble friend think that there may be a connection between the rise of electronic cigarettes, the rapid decline in tobacco sales and the enthusiasm of tobacco companies for the medicinal regulation of electronic cigarettes?

It is not just big tobacco; big pharma has shown significant interest in the regulation of electronic cigarettes. That is not surprising because they are, again, a rival to patch products and other nicotine replacement therapies. Perhaps more surprising is that much of the medical establishment is in favour of medicinal regulation. I never thought I would live to see the BMA and the tobacco industry on the same side of an argument.

The BMA says that electronic cigarettes cannot be considered a lower-risk option, but this completely flies in the face of the evidence. As we have heard already, electronic cigarettes are 1,000 times safer. The BMA says that it is worried about passive vaping, the renormalising of smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes as a gateway to smoking. The excellent charity Sense About Science, to which I am proud to be an adviser, has asked the BMA for evidence to support those assertions. I must say that there is a strong suspicion that the only reason the medical establishment wants to see these things regulated as medicines is because it cannot bear to see the commercial sector achieving more in a year in terms of getting people off cigarettes than the public sector has achieved in 10. Instead of talking about regulating this product, should we not be talking about encouraging it, promoting it and letting people vape indoors if they want to—in pubs, on trains and in football grounds—specifically so that they are tempted to vape instead of smoke? That would be of enormous benefit to them and to the country as a whole.

I end by asking specifically in relation to the agreement that, as we heard from my noble friend Lord Borwick, was agreed last night, what its impact will be on what is happening, and in particular on advertising. As I understand it, under the agreement reached yesterday, it will be possible for the advertising of these things to be banned as if they were cigarettes. What is the justification for that, given the proportionality and the evidence that they will actually save lives rather than harm them?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Killing Cancer like the Common Cold

This is excellent news.

"This is absolutely one of the more exciting advances I've seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years," said Dr. David Porter, a hematologist and oncologist at Penn. "We've entered into a whole new realm of medicine."

In the therapy, doctors first remove the patient's T-cells, which play a crucial role in the immune system. They then reprogram the cells by transferring in new genes. Once infused back into the body, each modified cell multiplies to 10,000 cells. These "hunter" cells then track down and kill the cancer in a patient's body.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Departure on DVD

Nick Macarty @Nick_Macarty has been playing with @jonsullivanart Mr Sullivan's  pictures:

"I really want 'The Departure' on Blu-Ray. Sorry Neal, had some spare time, so got a little creative. It would be so cool to unwrap this at Christmas!"

We can all dream!


Thursday, November 14, 2013

5 Books on USA Kindle

I just received a newsletter from Night Shade Books (now an imprint of Start Publishing).


Happy reading! 

Ban Tea!

This is brilliant:

"Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to draw your attention to a situation that has gone under the radar for too long. Businesses up and down the country are, to this day, allowing this situation to continue, and are in many cases misguidedly encouraging it by providing and in some cases even allowing its consumption at the heart of the workplace, potentially risking the health not only of the person consuming it, but of those innocent people who have its effects forced upon them. 

I am of course talking about tea."

E-Cig Summit

I don’t like the name e-cig or e-cigarette because the association in that name wins part of the battle for who are trying to ban these devices, or regulate them out of existence. I prefer the word vaporiser, but I’m sensible enough to know that fighting against popular usage is a battle you’ll lose. This is unfortunate, really, because the name e-cigs contributes to the ignorance about the thing so named. Many people, it would appear, seem to think an e-cig is that cheap plastic object that looks like a cigarette and is sure to raise the hackles of the of the ardent anti-smoker. In the growing e-cig subculture these are ‘cigalikes’ and generally worthy of only contemptuous dismissal.


A couple of days ago there was a big summit on e-cigs which included the likes of  Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, the sensible Clive Bates, Jeremy Mean a MHRA spokesmuppet on e-cigs and everyone’s favourite rabid anti-smoker Deborah Arnott of ASH. Presentations can be found here and more can be read here and here


The guy in the pictures (my thanks to Elva Pote for providing these) is Dave Dorn who is the frontman for Vapour Trails TV, and a discussion on VTTV about this e-cig summit can be found here. During that discussion it was mentioned how people from Big Pharma, Public Health and elsewhere were quite astonished upon seeing the items on this table. Here then are people who have been pushing to regulate or ban something they don’t appear to have a clue about. Here then are people suffering from a bad case of future shock. Part of their argument is that upon seeing someone using an e-cig others might think it is okay to smoke an analogue cigarette, or that it will ‘renormalize’ smoking. Do these items look anything like a B&H or an Old Holborn roll-up to you?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Writing Update

Okay, it’s time for me to get back into some blogging. Sorry for the absence but shit has been happening and I just haven’t felt in the mood to apply myself to anything more than a few snarky lines on Twitter. I have, however, been steadily working my way backwards through the Penny Royal books, picking up mistakes and making notes on some changes I need to make throughout the trilogy. Currently I’m working backwards through book III.

I’ve had an interesting discussion about these books with Bella at Tor. While those of you who have read my books will know who and what Penny Royal is, others might wonder if the three books are about a character from the Herb Garden and ‘a very friendly lion called Parsley’ might be involved. So, in this respect I need to think a bit more about the titles. As I wrote the books they were simply called Penny Royal I, II & III, they then transformed into the Penny Royal trilogy with the titles Isobel, Room 101 & Spear and Spine. I’m now thinking more in terms of the new reader walking into a shop and seeing them on the shelf. Perhaps the overall title of the trilogy should be The Dark AI or, perhaps even better and more accessible: The Dark Intelligence.

Here’s a picture just to break up the text. Nothing to do with what I've written here (it's the Brass Man cover picture) but we don’t need much of a reason to look at Jon Sullivan’s work:


I’m still not sure about the titles of the individual books, however. The first one does mainly focus on the story of a character called Isobel Satomi, but is the title Isobel going to make someone pick up the book? Perhaps something more thematic like Transformations which are also integral to the book? Um, don’t know. This is still something I have to think on. Maybe the second book, to be more specific, I’ll call Factory Station Room 101. Anyway, it’s all going to require a bit more thought.

And now, on a final note: I must do some more video clips. So, if you have questions then please stick them in the comments below this post. You don’t necessarily have to stick to science fiction. And, if I don’t like your question, I’ll either ignore it or give a fatuous answer.

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Departure - Unused Cover Picture

Here's something from the excellent Jon Sullivan, whose website is here:


The Benefits of Vaping

Here's a nice info-graphic from E-Liquid Labs. It is in their own best interest to put out something like this, however, I find it interesting because though there's lots of stuff out there telling you of the timeline benefits of stopping smoking, which is of course inclusive of stopping nicotine, this is the first I've seen for vaping.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Jupiter War in the USA

Jupiter War up on SF Signal. Something of a mega-scale gun that robot is toting!


Available in the US on May 6th 2014 and of course here in the UK now.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

We went to see Ender’s Game and thoroughly enjoyed it. The film isn’t in the league of something like Aliens. It’s a bit young/adult and there’s nowhere near enough gore for me. Still, it was enjoyable, and not too far from the original book. If it’s successful we’ll probably be seeing Speaker for the Dead, though, of all Orson Scott Card books I would rather see Wyrms.


I note that some in the gay lobby are calling for a boycott on the film because of Orson Scott Card’s (religion-based) bigotry concerning them. I’d heard about this before but never really bothered to look into it. I see now that it all stems from an article he wrote in 1990 that has all the justifications and twisted logic of any who believe in a sky fairy, and that in intervening years he’s gone into a fast PR reversal from it. Doubtless he has also made other comments elsewhere on this and, apparently, funds an anti-gay political pressure group. But in the end all of this is an argument he and his kind have lost (well, in civilized countries).

As I have noted elsewhere: if I limited my reading and other entertainment to the product of only those I agreed with I’d have missed out on some wonderful stuff (Aliens being a case in point). But then I’m not gay, nor could I judge this if Card was against heterosexuality since I don’t define myself by my sexuality. The closest I can get is: how would I have felt if he’d been arguing to make atheism illegal? Come to think of it I’d still have gone to see the film and I would still have read the books. Views like his are so far outside the Zeitgeist as to be irrelevant.

Henry Gee has some interesting stuff to say about this on his blog. I can’t say I’m surprised by the first sentence – SF conventions seeming to have become the home of much righteous prickery of late. Check Jim Braiden’s comment for a relevant quote from Card.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

SF Prediction

Here's a bit I wrote for a BBC article by Peter Ray Allison:

Science fiction hits some predictive targets in science but rather in the way that a clip fired from an assault rifle will hit some of the enemy hidden in the jungle, but mostly hit trees and leaves.

One of the past criticisms of SF has been that it’s all ‘zap-guns and rocket ships’ whereupon the SF writer can smugly point out the LaWs US navy laser system knocking down drones and then perhaps wax lyrical about the X Prize, Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Yet, prior to Sputnik and the space race we had SF about space ships with the navigator aboard calculating the ship’s course with a slide rule. Today many people use a communication device much like those used in Star Trek, but the Roddenbury communicator was distinctly lacking in apps, games, camera and video recorder. It’s a simple fact that SF completely missed the computer revolution we have seen, yet, three-D printers we are now seeing have been there in the books for some while, though admittedly running on hand-wavium.

But in the end SF is not there to make accurate predictions about the future. It’s there to entertain and stimulate the imagination. And there is absolutely no doubt that many of the imaginations it stimulates belong to scientists and that to some extent it drives and directs science. I can think of many examples, but offer this one: the X-Prize now being offered for aStar Trek tricorder.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Petman Tests Camo



Those guys at Boston Dynamics have been watching too many Terminator movies!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Letter from my MP No. 2, so to speak.

And here's another one:


Letter from my MP - E-cigs

Just to repeat things here's a letter I sent to my MP:

Dear Sir,

A number of months back my wife was diagnosed with a serious complaint that requires major surgery and, this tending to focus one on matters of health, we both decided it was time to give up smoking. However, having made numerous attempts in the past and simply failing, we weren’t optimistic.

Some friends, who had given up a few years before, handed over their stash of NRT including patches, gum, microtabs, inhalators and some electronic cigarettes. All of these worked to some degree but the e-cig was the most effective, even though the ones we had were a few years old and malfunctioning. We then, to our surprise, found them for sale in Tesco and bought a Vapestick each. These, with their ‘cartomizers’ and more modern design were even better. Better still, thereafter, was an e-cig with a small glass tank that can take various flavours of e-liquid. It was the moment I started using one of these that I had an epiphany, realising that I would never ever again smoke a cigarette.

Incidentally, since I’m a known SF writer (ask David Davis) who also blogs a lot, this has led to six of my fans finally taking the plunge and giving up smoking using the same method.

It is now the case that even if I cannot give up ‘vaping’ my chances of dying from all those smoking-related maladies have just dropped through the floor. These devices are massively harm-reducing. Ignore all this mealy-mouthed nonsense that starts with ‘but we don’t know enough’. We know that a ‘vaper’ breathes in nicotine, a vaporising substance found in asthma inhalers, and water. Nicotine is certainly addictive, but is no more harmful than caffeine. Yes, some further supposedly harmful substances have been found, but no more than are found in conventional NRT – trace amounts – and of course the merest fraction of a per cent of two or three of the thousands of chemicals and 60 or so known carcinogens in real cigarettes.  

So, imagine my surprise and horror to learn that there are people who want to ban these devices, and that bans have in fact already been introduced on some trains and in some pub chains. Imagine how annoying it is for me to discover that legislation is being introduced, much to the delight of drug and cigarette companies, that will kill innovation in this new industry, make these devices difficult to sell, impose limits on the strength and flavours of e-liquids and, in essence will drive many ‘vapers’ back to smoking; many of the 1.3 million people now using e-cigs in Britain today.

This is madness. This reveals that activists at the likes of ASH are more concerned with activism itself rather than the purported reason for it. This reveals that such is the hatred of anti-smokers that they would rather people died than use something that looks like a cigarette.  This leads to complete Twilight Zone situations like one recently, when an NHS quit-smoking manager was complaining about a lack clients because they were using e-cigs.

Now, as my MP, what are you going to do about this? Here is something you can get behind that will actually save lives.


Yours Sincerely,

Here's my MP's reply:




What a total twat he is. One e-cig company recently checked with the MRHA about getting their products licensed. If they wanted to license them all the cost was in the millions.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Watch and Learn



At some point I will also copy and put here the crappy, ill-thought-out reply from my MP on this issue.

Save E-cigs!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Jupiter War is out there!

Well, as is always the case there are those getting their copies of my next book before the release date and enjoying a good gloat about it. Others are crying in the wilderness because it hasn't turned up yet. One person I know of has already read it, while another in South Africa is waiting for it to turn up on his Kobo.

But Jupiter War is out there!


And just to give this post a little more interest. Here's an earlier iteration of the cover:


Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Penny Royal I: Isobel ... reaching boredom threshold.

I’m steadily working through the printed out version of Penny Royal I: Isobel, but it is a bit of a grind. Certainly I’m finding mistakes but after just reading a few pages I start to lose concentration and find myself just reading instead of looking for errors. I can claim that this is due to various distractions in my life just lately, like my mother dying a week or so ago and Caroline having undergone a major operation and now slowly recovering here, but I have reached this stage in every book I’ve written. When does one send a book in to the publisher? It would be nice to say it is when you have ironed out every error, when it is perfect and polished and clear and exact. However, in my case, the reality is that it goes off to the publisher when the thought of further editing makes me feel a little ill, and when, while doing that further editing I find myself making alterations not so much to correct mistakes, but out of boredom.


Why the picture? Nearest to how I visualize one form of Penny Royal.

After I've emailed this book to Macmillan I think it will be time for me to take a break. Maybe I should just sit and read books for a week or two (when not spending some time clearing out my mother's house) maybe just watch some TV ... or, more likely, the work-ethic monkey on my back will start pinching my ear and I'll probably turn to editing the next book.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Open Thread

It's been a while since I've done one of these. Play nice please ... well, at least keep your abuse coherent and to the point.


Any subject you fancy, any self-promotion, interesting links.
Whatever. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It Killed the Dinosaurs! Claimed ASH

And I saw another interesting thing while walking to the hospital....

This brought me to a halt the moment I saw it and I was glad I had my camera in my bag. Somebody had obviously taken exception to a No-Smoking sign on a path leading into the grounds of Ipswich hospital and peeled off some of the paint. Not that these signs have any effect. I saw a guy in a wheelchair and another with his drip still attached outside one wing of the hospital chuffing away on cigarettes. Both didn't look in great condition and I had to wonder if the phrase, 'That will kill you,' would have received a hollow laugh in reply.


So what sort of funny line can go with this?  It wasn't Sir Walter Rayleigh who introduced tobacco to the world! So who's going to tell him to stub it out? Of course we could get into denormalization territory with something about how only dinosaurs smoke. Or maybe into one of today's manufactured panics: Now we know it wasn't an asteroid!

I mean seriously, no smoking for any stegosaurus beyond this point?  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

By Jupiter!

I saw a funny thing on the way to Ipswich hospital the other day - a demonstration that if you look for them coincidences are all around.



Which of course is a way to lead into this: Jupiter War is out on the 26th!


Sorry.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Books and Trips

New arrival from Macmillan yesterday, and very nice they look too. Don’t forget that Jupiter War is available on the 26th. I see that it’s already being well pre-ordered and that the kindle version is at number2 on New & Future Releases (science fiction) on Amazon (that bugger Reynolds having the number one spot).
  

Since we’re heading away for a few days I was trying to decide whether or not to take a laptop so I can carry on working, but decided just to take my Ipad and the printed version of Penny Royal I: Isobel. This is just blurred enough...


Right, off to Colchester today where Caroline is going to get some Peter Robinson books signed – he’s doing a signing of his new book Children of the Revolution in Waterstones.



After that we head for Ipswich where Caroline is being admitted to the hospital for surgery, but that’s not something I want to go on about here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"It really is a wolf," said Peter.


Arctic summers ice-free 'by 2013'
Scientists in the US have presented one of the most dramatic forecasts yet for the disappearance of Arctic sea ice. Their latest modelling studies indicate northern polar waters could be ice-free in summers within just 5-6 years.


And now it's global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year
·         Almost a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than in 2012
·         BBC reported in 2007 global warming would leave Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013
·         Publication of UN climate change report suggesting global warming caused by humans pushed back to later this month

Of course, lest we forget, our planet has two poles and Antarctic ice is increasing. But, putting things in real perspective:


You have to chuckle ... or maybe scream a bit.

Update:
Something everyone really needs to realise when reading 'science' reports and studying graphs. How much of a tilt there is on any line on the graph - how severe it looks - is utterly dependent on the numbers used and their spacing up the sides or along the bottom or top.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Cats Allowed

In the previous post I was talking about the various health effects I’ve experienced since stopping smoking and starting vaping. Here’s another odd one: I grew up in a household where there were two or three cats at any time and have always liked them. In recent years, however, I started to notice that I was growing allergic to them. Even just stroking one briefly resulted in my face starting to itch and turn blotchy. Any longer contact with a cat and quite often, afterwards, I would have to change my shirt and wash my face to dispel the itchiness. This weekend one of our neighbour’s cats decided it would like to stay for a visit. It explored the house, jumped onto the sofa and sprawled there, was all put climbing into my lap when I stroked it. This continued for a while and then suddenly I noticed I was scattered with cat hairs and simply wasn’t getting an allergic reaction at all.


I guess this is down to the mentioned improvement in my skin and perhaps the lack of holes and sensitizing damage, along with a general overall improvement in health that basically gives me a greater resistance to stuff.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Day 50 of not Smoking

Today should be a day of celebration since it has been 50 days since I last smoked a cigarette (I guess I’ll have a gin & tonic tonight for a change ho ho). Casting back over my previous blog posts I’ve decided to sum up some of my thoughts and on things I’ve learned and on the effects upon me.

Let’s start with health since that is the main reason for quitting the weed. In a previous post a mentioned how horrified I was to count the number of asthma inhalers I had accumulated in my bedside drawer. I had so many because, obviously, I needed them: I was taking a few puffs when going to bed, sometimes in the night because of breathing difficulties, sometimes in the morning too. Very occasionally I needed them during the day. The sheer number I have is due to me shuttling back and forth between here and Crete over the last six years. Here those inhalers cost a prescription charge of about £8 and first require a visit to the doctor to get them prescribed. Of course I never wanted to go to the doctor because he or she would inevitably ask me about my smoking… Anyway, out in Crete they can be bought for about €3 over the counter from the pharmacist so, of course, I was buying them out there and bringing them back, and never remembering how many I had here when doing the buying. Now I don’t use them. During the first couple of weeks of quitting I took the occasional pull, but since then I haven’t even had reason to think about the things.


My skin has improved. Many years back I suffered from acne rosacea and for many years took pills to control it. As, over the years, these pills lost their effectiveness, this rosacea transformed into some form of dermatitis, the spottiness moving out from my nose to my cheeks and where my sideburns would be if I had any. I also had spots on my scalp, shoulders and upper back. These always turned itchy in the middle of the night, and I would end up scratching them before awake enough to stop myself. It was so bad, in fact, that Caroline bought dark material pillow-cases just for me to disguise the blood. In the past I’ve gone through various phases thinking it was the sun that aggravated this, it was skin mites or it was my drinking, or that I needed to take this vitamin or that. Now, having given up smoking for 50 days, I don’t have a single itchy spot on my face or my scalp. All I have is a persistent one on one shoulder, which even now seems to be healing up. In fact the skin on my face now feels tough – like a won’t be able to inadvertently put my nail through it. Oh, and on the subject of nails: my fingernails no longer look as dry and dull.      


My general health has also improved. I can think of no better way of putting it than that I feel younger. I don’t feel sluggish all the time any more. I’m not perpetually tired and don’t look upon the next job I have to do with a sinking sensation and the urge to avoid it. However, I have to add that I do have my moments. My sleep patterns still haven’t properly stabilized and this does lead to me getting sand-bagged by Morpheus at odd times. Then again, because I wasn’t sleeping I got hold of some Nytol, Sominex and some Melatonin. These, I’ve now decided, are worse than insomnia. Yes they’ll help you to get to sleep, but they’ll also help you feel sleepy throughout the following day.

On rereading my previous posts I realise that I posted a lot during the initial weeks and there talked mostly about the NRT – the number of posts I was doing waning as I took up with the electronic cigarette. The reason for this is simple: my concentration was back and I was able to get on with some editing. Therefore, though I have written some, I haven’t written enough about my e-cig: my Kanger protank and Evod battery. Yes, the nicotine gum, the inhalator and the microtabs helped, but all these did was replace missing nicotine and, as all smokers are aware, smoking is not only about the nicotine. Well, maybe I could have quitted cigarettes just using that conventional NRT, but it is the e-cig that has made it easy. In fact it has made it so easy that I hesitate here over the words ‘I’ve quit smoking’.


This hesitation, I guess, all comes down to some erroneous associations that really need to be quashed. The e-cig crowd are getting there with the new words vapers, vaping, a vape etc, but the description that really needs to be changed is ‘electronic cigarette’. Perhaps I should make a point from now on of describing the thing I use as a vaporiser. Another association that needs to be lost is that of the addiction to nicotine with smoking itself. In the minds of many, as I have discovered, nicotine is A BAD THING. Well yes it was, when the only way you could get it into your system was by burning tobacco leaves. These vaporisers have now changed the paradigm and, to finish on an sfnal note, all the anti-smokers out there who want to ban these devices seem to be suffering from a form of future shock.

Happy vaping! 

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Letter To My MP About E-cigarettes

Dear Sir,

A number of months back my wife was diagnosed with a serious complaint that requires major surgery and, this tending to focus one on matters of health, we both decided it was time to give up smoking. However, having made numerous attempts in the past and simply failing, we weren’t optimistic.

Some friends, who had given up a few years before, handed over their stash of NRT including patches, gum, microtabs, inhalators and some electronic cigarettes. All of these worked to some degree but the e-cig was the most effective, even though the ones we had were a few years old and malfunctioning. We then, to our surprise, found them for sale in Tesco and bought a Vapestick each. These, with their ‘cartomizers’ and more modern design were even better. Better still, thereafter, was an e-cig with a small glass tank that can take various flavours of e-liquid. It was the moment I started using one of these that I had an epiphany, realising that I would never ever again smoke a cigarette.

Incidentally, since I’m a known SF writer (ask David Davis) who also blogs a lot, this has led to six of my fans finally taking the plunge and giving up smoking using the same method.

It is now the case that even if I cannot give up ‘vaping’ my chances of dying from all those smoking-related maladies have just dropped through the floor. These devices are massively harm-reducing. Ignore all this mealy-mouthed nonsense that starts with ‘but we don’t know enough’. We know that a ‘vaper’ breathes in nicotine, a vaporising substance found in asthma inhalers, and water. Nicotine is certainly addictive, but is no more harmful than caffeine. Yes, some further supposedly harmful substances have been found, but no more than are found in conventional NRT – trace amounts – and of course the merest fraction of a per cent of two or three of the thousands of chemicals and 60 or so known carcinogens in real cigarettes.  

So, imagine my surprise and horror to learn that there are people who want to ban these devices, and that bans have in fact already been introduced on some trains and in some pub chains. Imagine how annoying it is for me to discover that legislation is being introduced, much to the delight of drug and cigarette companies, that will kill innovation in this new industry, make these devices difficult to sell, impose limits on the strength and flavours of e-liquids and, in essence will drive many ‘vapers’ back to smoking; many of the 1.3 million people now using e-cigs in Britain today.

This is madness. This reveals that activists at the likes of ASH are more concerned with activism itself rather than the purported reason for it. This reveals that such is the hatred of anti-smokers that they would rather people died than use something that looks like a cigarette.  This leads to complete Twilight Zone situations like one recently, when an NHS quit-smoking manager was complaining about a lack clients, because they were using e-cigs.

Now, as my MP, what are you going to do about this? Here is something you can get behind that will actually save lives.


Yours Sincerely,

Neal Asher

Monday, September 02, 2013

Zero Point Review

In Zero Point we follow the story of Serene Galahad who is trying to reform the Committee, albeit in a radicalized manner. On the other hand the Mars Colony is trying to continue it's steps toward the independence from Earth while the events about Argus Station are continuing to unfold at it's hurling toward red planet. The character of Serene Galahad is fantastic. At the same time fiercely intelligent and arch-typically evil, Serena is frightening reminder what might happen if someone like that ended up holding the reins of power in real life. By the end of the book, everything is set up for the final showdown. Even though The Departure was quite bleak book for Neal, Zero Point pushes the darkness one notch further through its exploration of the missuses of technology. You'll literary squirm at the implications but there is simply no light at the end of the tunnel. 
Neal Asher has once again struck gold with Zero Point and I can't wait for Jupiter War to see what he'll come up with next. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Writing Update

Right, good stuff: I’ve edited my way through the three books while turning chapter notes into synopses along the way. As I have mentioned before I can firmly say that the books are called Penny Royal I: Isobel, Penny Royal II: Room 101 and Penny Royal III: Spear & Spine. Next I’m going to focus on Isobel and do further editing, first working my way backwards through it: I read a paragraph at a time from the end of the book, which keeps me from getting involved in the story and enables me to pick up more errors. I’ll also write a selection of cover blurbs for it. I want to get this book sorted because I promised it to Macmillan in September. After that I’ll do the just same with the other two books, and they’ll probably be ready to send off over the ensuing couple of months. What next?

While writing these books I extracted a whole plot thread concerning a character called Tuppence, his sidekick troodon dinosaur (who used to be an exotic dancer) and a being called ‘the client’. This I then turned into a novella I sold to Asimov’s called The Other Gun and which was published in the April/May issue of that magazine this year.


When I removed the Tuppence thread I also removed a thread about another character called Dr Whip (and no, he’s not into SM). I in fact dumped both threads into one file before later separating them. So next it will be time to get to work on the story of Dr Whip, a man who has been radically altered by Penny Royal. I’m looking forward to letting myself go with that once I’ve finished all the drudge work on the three books above.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Memories of Earth

Quite a while back I wrote a short story, based on the Owner trilogy, to be used in publicity. It wasn't used so I retrieved it and dispatched it off to Asimov's. Thankfully it was accepted and published in this issue. Sorry about how blurred this is, but it was the only cover picture I could find. You might also be interested to know that you can subscribe to Asimov's via Kindle.


Here's one review of my story I found.

All of which is by way of a preamble to say that I would have been disinclined to like anything I read, but I found Asher’s story a clever one indeed. The set up is quick (it’s a shorter short story) and the main character interesting – due to an alien attack, he’s left grounded planetside, no longer connected to the vast web of knowledge and technical support that gave him what was tantamount to godhood when up is space.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ban It!

Something I’d been thinking about, and considering writing a blog post about, was nicely summed up by Rich Daniels on Facebook:

Anti-smoking activists remind me more and more of the AGW crowd. They have a principled goal of saving lives/the planet. They posit a solution, don't smoke/don't emit so much CO2. Then some smart arse comes along and solves these problems in such a way as to give them their solutions without really altering our lives, and they fucking hate it. We are doing what they demanded without doing what they told us. The seething must be awful to behold.

So so true. Fracking has drastically reduced America’s CO2 levels:

The reduction is even more impressive when one considers that 57 million additional energy consumers were added to the U.S. population over the past two decades. Indeed, U.S. carbon emissions have dropped about 20 per cent per capita, and are now at their lowest level since Dwight D. Eisenhower left the White House in 1961.


Yet activists don’t want us to do that here. We have to build windmills and pay double or treble for the energy. We must ready ourselves for power cuts every time the wind stops blowing. WE MUST DO WITHOUT.

Next we come to the e-cigarette. Here is a device that in just a few years has taken 1.3 million people partially or completely off cigarettes in Britain. This is something that the ban on smoking in public places completely failed to do, as will the cutting of cigarette displays or the proposed introduction of plain packaging. Yet e-cigs must be legislated against and if possible banned. They must be stopped! No matter that they are saving lives. Ban them. No matter that they are no more harmful than a cup of coffee. Ban them!


Why is that? I submit that it is due to the puritan and punitive instincts of many ‘activists’ who are no better than proselytizing religious zealots. In a transition to a green renewable energy culture the hair shirts must be distributed, to be worn over bodies already self-flagellated by sustainable birch twigs. You must go without cars, beef steaks and must sit shivering in your house squinting at the latest Greenpeace pamphlet in the light of a low-energy bulb, if the power is on. If you’re a stinky smoker then how dare you find a way to avoid all the dangerous aspects of smoking and still enjoy its pleasures! You must suffer all the torments of withdrawal, or become a medicated patient of the NHS and suffer the humiliation of quit-smoking classes for your instruction, and only then, when suitably chastened, are you fit to join the company of your betters.

And, of course, in both cases: ONLY THROUGH SUFFERING CAN YOU ATTAIN REDEMPTION!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Sale 3.1

Here's an update of the list:

Book
Detail
Number
Price

Brass Man




MM paperback
UK Sullivan cover
5
£8

Trade paperback
USA
21
£10

MM paperback
USA
16
£6






Polity Agent




MM paperback
UK Old cover
1
£4

MM paperback
UK Sullivan cover
7
£8






Prador Moon




Trade paperback
US Night Shade Books issue
17
£10






Voyage of the Sable Keech




MM paperback
UK old cover
3
£4

MM paperback
UK Sullivan cover
4
£8






Cowl




MM paperback
US
3
£5.50

Trade paperback
US
7
£10






Shadow of the Scorpion




Trade paperback
UK old cover
3
£12

MM paperback
UK Sullivan
4
£8






The Technician




MM paperback
UK Sullivan
5
£8






The Gabble




MM paperback
UK old cover
3
£8






The Departure




MM paperback
UK Sullivan
6
£8






Zero Point




MM paperback
UK Sullivan
6
£8








Contact me at the email below my biog on the right if interested.