Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Done.

The season of goodwill and good cheer and all that shite. Well, as I have learned, it’s about the worst time of year if someone you shared it with has died. I didn’t even consider getting out the decorations, since I always passed them from the loft down to Caroline and, really, it just seemed like an empty thing to do. And knew that I was going to bugger off somewhere. I think receiving Christmas cards addressed to Neal & Caroline just affirmed that. It’s a silly time of year often of pointless presents and, obviously, of meaningless Christmas card lists. Thankfully, my first boss at Macmillan, Peter Lavery, had a place for me to stay so I buggered off to Hastings.

Amazing how a bit of sunlight transforms a place and it was bright and sunny on Christmas day. A lot of wandering about ensued and since this is also the season of excessive boozing, that too.

Had to include this picture. This is Inspector Foyle’s house from Foyle’s War. I have other pictures on my phone, which I’ll download when I find or purchase the correct USB cable. These are of the house where Rider Haggard lived and the house where Alan Turing was born. I didn’t get a picture of the first pub I ever went into there – where Whistler drank – it’s been converted into four flats.

While there I met John Kaiine and Tanith Lee and had an excellent afternoon. I’ll talk more about that in another post, because people need to be aware that many of her 90 books (I’ve never read one I didn’t like) are being reissued and can now be picked up on Kindle. Above is the first I ever read. I was attracted by the cover probably because back then I was reading the Robert E Howard Conan books, but found something very different.

But I drank too much wine. This resulted in some stupid drunkenness and crashing depression. I came back home to a familiar stabbing in the guts and feelings I remembered from my earlier months in Crete, and which are somewhat more than hangover blues. And even a day later I'm still getting post alcoholic cringes. That’s Christmas over and done for me and the start now of the season of temperance. I’ll not toast in the New Year – just hope it’s a better one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lowering my Sights

I discovered something quite interesting yesterday. For some while now I’ve been sitting down at the computer with all good intentions to write 2,000 words a day. I open up the thing I’m working on (another Owner book) stare at it for a little while, then wonder if there’s anything interesting on Facebook, or Twitter, or if any of my 5 online scrabble opponents have made a move…

I’ve been sure that the reason behind this is that I’m just not interested. I don’t care about fiction – something reflected in the fact that I haven’t read a book for the best part of a year. In fact I don’t have much interest in quite a few things. Not much on TV engages me – I can’t even get angry at the news. In fact my reaction is sadness interspersed with weak irritation and I tend not to watch.  I’ve had the stuffing knocked out of me, I’m low, depressed, fed up.


The reality is that plenty of stuff still interests me. I might not like the TV news, but that’s due to a combination of the partiality of the BBC (and ITV for that matter) and the tendency for ‘news’ to always be ‘oh look, some more bad shit has happened’ or the always contemptible, ‘this politician says, or has done…’. When I can select the news on the internet that’s fine. I would rather read something about the latest development in graphene tech than ‘David Cameron gets tough on Europe’ or ‘ten body bags back from Timbuktu’ or yet another BBC environmental waffle before photo-shopped condensation towers.  In fact I’m interested in a lot of what I find on the internet and it can keep me engaged for hours – I read a lot here and watch a lot. I am also starting to get back into fiction. I watched Lord of the Rings again and enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m even starting to think I might pick up a book again.

But back to the original point, from which I’ve somewhat strayed. The interesting thing that happened yesterday was that while I sat staring at the screen I decided that something is better than nothing, so I reduced my target. This is something I’ve never had to do before. I would aim to do 500 words a day, I thought. Even a fuck-up like me should be able to manage that? The moment I made that decision I opened up the file labelled ‘Grazen1’. I stared at it for a moment completely baffled then decided I would just go with another POV – an alien one. Less than an hour later I’d done 500 words. By the time I was straying back to Facebook and twitter I’d done over 1,000.

Same target today – I shan’t beat myself up if I do over 500 words.     

Walking Again

I took a few walks again recently because, well, I’d stayed inside too long and was getting a bit stir crazy. I had to mentally slap myself up the back of my head to get moving because it’s all too easy to sit inside, look out the window at the gloom and wet and just go, ‘Nah, not today.’ The stupid thing is that I know that if I take a walk it’s generally enjoyable. The weather has to be appalling – to the point where I need waterproof legging – for it not to be, and here in Essex it’s never often that bad. This time I remembered to take my camera, though the light wasn’t exactly stunning. 

About a mile or so from my house there’s this water tower steadily being converted into a house. Why not? Here if something has any approximation of walls and roof someone will be along to stick in a few windows and sell it for silly money. But this place, when it’s eventually done (at the rate it’s been going probably by 2050) would be a cool home. 

It has some pretty good views over the fields and the River Crouch. Of course they don’t look like much now in this light, but I’m guessing pretty good in the Summer. Also, with the elevation of this tower, there must be interesting views in every direction. Good home for an eccentric writer perhaps?

Most of this walk is along the roads so not much of interest to see (this same walk can be found here), but it is nice to get down by the Crouch. Here you see why bathing in the sea is not much of an option around here – schlepping through mud to get into it not being much fun. It’s also why Maldon is famous for its mud race – a madness I’ve watched but felt no inclination to try.

So that’s it really, but this is not about the scenery but about the walk, which Google Earth tells me is 7 miles. This puts me well over the 10,000 steps a day (about 4 miles) that is recommended by someone, somewhere. It keeps me fit and stops me turning into a completely nutty recluse.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Complete Owner Trilogy

This one is for American readers only I think. A 'holiday' gift perhaps?

The Complete Owner Trilogy by Neal Asher, including The Departure, Zero Point, and Jupiter War. 

The Departure: Visible in the night sky the Argus Station, its twin smelting plants like glowing eyes, looks down on nightmare Earth. From Argus the Committee keep an oppressive control: citizens are watched by cams systems and political officers, it's a world inhabited by shepherds, reader guns, razor birds and the brutal Inspectorate with its white tiled cells and pain inducers. Soon the Committee will have the power to edit human minds, but not yet, twelve billion human being 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 . . . This is the world Alan Saul wakes to in his crate on the conveyor to the Calais incinerator. How he got there he does not know, but he does remember the pain and the face of his interrogator. Informed by Janus, through the hardware implanted in his skull, about the world as it is now Saul is determined to destroy it, just as soon as he has found out who he was, and killed his interrogator . . .

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Visit to Glasgow

I took a little trip to Glasgow last weekend or, as my phrase book would have it ‘Glesca’. I thought to myself that well, I’ve got the low fuel consumption diesel Hyundai, so I’ll drive. The car chugged along nicely, but bloody hell, I really ought to take more rest breaks next time! I am also now awaiting the arrival of speeding tickets because it seemed there was no point around the M25 and little way up where the beady eyes of speed cams weren’t observing me. Arriving in Glasgow I stopped in a Premier Inn. Pretty good room, comfortable and spacious, but not exactly cheap.

It was cold and wet up there, but let’s not make this a Scottish weather thing because it wasn’t exactly beaming sun and T-shirt weather in Essex. From the Inn I got a pretty good view of some recognizable structures.

One nearby building was the Science Centre (no picture). The friend I went to see thought this would be ideal for me to visit and quite right too because I like all that stuff, but the place was a laughable disappointment. We got inside and it was like what is this shit? Well, it was all interactive toys for children. And it cost £21 for two people to find that out. We got out of there pretty sharpish and next headed to Glasgow city centre. It was  of course crowded with Christmas shoppers…  

I got a slight nostalgia jolt seeing Glasgow Central Station since that was where I went many years ago to an Eastercon SF convention – held in one of the big hotels. I remembered the authors trooping after their editor like lost ducklings, remembered drinking too much, a painfully stilted authorial lunch and the overpowering urge to stub a cigarette out on the head of some pretentious berk, and escaping into the city for a look around.

One highlight of last weekend’s trip was going to a Angus and Julia Stone gig. I’d never heard of them before a few weeks back, but now they’re growing on me. This is good because even though I’m not heavily into music I do like to listen on occasion. Unfortunately, all the music I have liked over the years has its Caroline connection, and it just makes me miserable to listen to it.

The next highlight was a breakfast at The Rio Cafe, which I couldn’t finish. Included in this (buried under the rest) was my first try of Stornoway black pudding (I’m looking at you Shona McTavish), which was delicious, and I ate the lot of that.

The final highlight was a visit to the Kelvingrove Museum. Free entry and a sight more interesting than that Science Centre.

I particularly liked these heads – appealed to my inner weirdo.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dark Intelligence - Starred Review

This is nice, but I've redacted a bit out of the review since it's a little bit of a spoiler..

"Hi Neal,
Media coverage for Dark Intelligence is off to a good start! Your book received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, the preeminent trade magazine here in the states.


Neal Asher. Skyhorse/Night Shade, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-59780-824-8

Asher (the Owner trilogy) delivers an exciting beginning to a new trilogy set in his Polity universe. During a war between humans and the crablike alien Prador, Thorvald Spear was killed by Penny Royal, a warped AI. More than a hundred years later, he’s revived to discover that the war is long over but Penny Royal is still around. Isobel Satomi made a deal with Penny Royal so she could become powerful in an interplanetary crime syndicate, but it granted her wish by starting her slow transformation into a carnivorous centipede. Both Spear and Satomi desire vengeance, which is complicated by several questions: not just where Penny Royal is and how to destroy it, but how much they are playing pre-ordained parts in its incomprehensible plan. This beautifully paced book does just as well at slam-bang action scenes as at painting frightening pictures of Isobel’s changes, and provides an interesting climax while leaving plenty of space for the next two books. This is space opera at a high peak of craftsmanship. (Feb.)

Friday, December 05, 2014

A Wander about Hastings

I took a few days off to visit a friend in Hastings. This visit involved chatting, supping some red wine and walking for miles in the rain. I took a few snaps around the area to give my new camera a try out. Not bad considering the crappy light.

Not quite sure why this one isn't right. Maybe water on the lens.

I suspect these pillars are cast iron. Mega-scale Victoriana.

It was all very dull and wet and cold and the red wine breaks a requirement. All slightly boring for some readers of this blog, but not all readers of it are British.