Sunday, February 28, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Andrew Denman


I discovered your books through my best friend of twenty years who, knowing my love of the weird and wonderful, recommended the Spatterjay series.  The richness of your “world-building” had me hooked immediately with The Skinner. As an animal lover and monster afficionado, I loved the intricacy of the ecology, and the manner in which cultural and societal norms were so intricately tied to that ecology (as is always the case even if we are blind to it). I also really identified with the positivity of your futurism.  Though your books have plenty of horror elements, the future universe you imagine is a positive place where human beings have transcended all manner of foibles. 

I have been obsessed with science fiction and horror since I was a kid.  When I about five-years-old, I began suffering from ocular migraines (undiagnosed until years later) that caused visual distortions such as severe tunnel vision.  To a small child, it was quite terrifying, and, also coincidentally suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I developed elaborate bedtime rituals to try and stop what I perceived as some sort of monstrous existential threat. Having had an experience which, however mundane and medical it ultimately turned out to be, I perceived as fantastical, made me adore stories of the bizarre, paranormal, and futuristic.  Stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary circumstances, learning how to successfully combat monsters, master the vacuum of space, and otherwise transcend normal human experience was intoxicating.  

Long before I discovered your work, I loved classic science fiction, both in the world of literature (Asimov and Wells being among my favorites) and film. I grew up on the campy horror and sci-fi of the 1950’s and 60’s, and still appreciate them today, especially for their flaws. I enjoy both the goofiness of the technology they envisioned and as documents of the contemporarily problematic cultural norms they often embody.  


With these genres as my reference point, it is no wonder that my first forays into my future career as an artist were focused on monsters, dragons, imaginary creatures from distant planets, about which I would narrate mock wildlife documentaries long before I knew that exobiology was a thing (You can understand why I have fallen in love with Hooders, Gabbleducks, and the like). Eventually my focus shifted to living wildlife, and I now make my living as a professional artist specializing in painting wildlife in a style combining representational realism with abstraction. Though my professional work is more grounded in reality than my childhood experiments, I still have an eye for the fantastical, taking my subjects out of their natural environments and recontextualizing them.  Popular of late has been my totem series, in which animal subjects are stacked in dizzying towers, referencing both the delicate balance of nature and the manner in which humans have always imbued their animal neighbors with symbolic import.  Painting animals for a living, I am an ardent conservationist, but I DO NOT identify with the apocalypticism that dominates so much conservation ideology.  I grow weary of the constant negativity and alarmism, mostly because it inspires defeatism rather than positive change. Based on some of your FB posts, I have a hunch we would find a lot of common ground on this subject over a drink or three. 




I grew up in California with a loving family who encouraged (and still encourage) my creativity.  I feel enormously fortunate to have been able to build my career around my passion for the visual arts, though I enjoy many other creative exploits, including writing poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories.  I am determined to one day squeeze out a particular sci-fi-horror-fantasy novel I have been writing in fits and starts for years. Of course a certain author continues to be an inspiration on this front! 


Today I live in Tucson, AZ with my partner Guy, also an artist, and our two dogs, Ella and Enzi.  We live in a fabulous original mid-century modern home ( a long-time ambition of mine, finally realized two years ago), the architecture of which reflects the naive futurism of the 1950’s and 60’s that I love so much. 


As an artist, I think what I appreciate most about your work is the notion of finding ways to extend human life. True artists always have more ideas in their heads than we will ever be able to bring to life on a page, in a painting, or in any other physical manifestation. It is both the gift and the curse of the artist to know that he will always have more “brain children” waiting to be born than he will ever be able to share in his lifetime.  I don’t resent a wrinkle or a grey hair, but I do fear running out of time, and your books transport me to a universe where the infinite stands before us, vast, terrifying, and brimming with promise.

The pictures in order are a headshot, two images of my artwork "Totem #6: Teton Totem." and "String Theory #9: European Goldfinches." Both are acrylic on board.  A picture of me (on the right) with my partner in Kenya, and a shot of our dogs and constant companions, Ella & Enzi. Thanks very much for inviting us to share our own stories and for always sharing your own!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Who Reads my Books Stevan Apter

My first Asher was Prador Moon. i recommend it to friends as a gateway drug. I can't eat soft-shell crab without having queasy associations ... gee thanks Neal. Like others around here I started reading SF around age 10 - the Heinlein juveniles. then quickly discovered the paperback rack at the local drugstore: Methuselah's Children, Childhood's End, Rebirth (The Chrysalids), Starship (Non-Stop). Harlan Ellison!! My academic background is philosophy (logic & metaphysics), and while I still read in this area, I've lost the appetite for writing. Contemporary academia strikes me as hell on earth. My wife Rebecca is the SF novelist R M Meluch (space-Romans!). I earn my living as a programmer, specializing in the various array programming languages (APL, K, J). My first programming job (1970) was working at the pole for the US Antarctic research program. Asher writes faster than I can read -- I can't keep up. 

My website is nsl.com, and here we are at a convergence con a few years ago:


And here with the kind folks who put me up for a month in their longhouse in the village of Madobak on Siberut - despite the corbusier spectacles and big stupid clown-shoes.


And finally here I am in Ajijic Mexico with our beloved wolf-dog Jermiah.


Note: I often chat with people via DMs and it was only when in passing Stevan mentioned his wife that I recognised the name. Obviously it is not a common one, to me anyway. Memory switches clicked down and I had to ask, 'Is this your wife?' The book has been in my collection for some time. That it is there means I very much enjoyed it.
                                       -- Neal Asher


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Alan Smith


Hi Neal

I started on SciFi very early with my father's huge collection of pulp magazines, firstly by looking at all the lurid illustrations then eventually graduating to the written word.  I read all the usual classics:  Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Campbell, etc before moving onto newer, edgier writers like Vonnegut, Harry Harrison, Bob Shaw, Philip K Dick and Douglas Adams.  Being the exact right age for the likes of Star Wars, (Tom Baker) Dr Who and Blakes 7 also helped cement my life-long love of the genre, with gothic and weird being my favourite flavour. 

I first found one of your books (The Gabble) around the same time I discovered Alastair Reynolds and Iain Banks (what a year!) It immediately appealed to my taste for the profoundly strange and alien, with hints of a much bigger universe that you kindly expanded upon in the following decade. My favourite (so far) is the first full novel that I read: Voyage of the Sable Keech, it pitched me into a universe of monsters and intrigue that made my head spin - glorious!

I've had a pretty mixed working life with an early stint in the Royal Australian Navy followed by many, many driving and delivery jobs before falling into civil engineering and following a move to New Zealand, a 15 year career with the local Council.  Officially, I manage a small team of guys who repair and maintain the wastewater and stormwater infrastructure but you can usually find me 'on the tools' and elbow deep in something unpleasant!

I'm currently re-reading Gideon the Ninth (and then Harrow the Ninth) by Tamsyn Muir in preparation for the final instalment due this year.  If you like a gothic blend of fantasy and scifi, I highly recommend it.

Cheers!

And a photo of me in Bali with a group of mates for our collective 50th.  Remember when you could just get on a plane and travel?  Sigh...

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Steven Lee


Hi Neal. I guess I must have first read one of your books – Prador Moon – about 4 or 5 years ago. I then spent a long time wading through Peter F Hamilton’s output before returning to you at the beginning of 2020. Since then, I have worked my way through Shadow of the Scorpion and the 5 Cormac books.

I started reading sci-fi early, spurred on by my older brother who was nose deep in Clarke and Asimov. Terrance Dicks was an early favourite for me. I even remember reading a set of 5 fiction books written by Sir Patrick Moore! As a teenager I discovered fantasy and entered Middle Earth, the Belgariad of David Eddings, Raymond E Feist’s Rift War Saga, and more. Then, one fated day, I picked up a book called Legend by David Gemmell. A lifelong passion for his writing followed; I know you also have a collection of DGs books in your library and I suspect, like he did for me, he inspired elements of your writing. I read some Iain M Banks in my twenties, but I didn’t return to sci-fi properly until my mid-to-late-forties. I’ve since read everything by PFH, can’t seem to get into Alistair Reynolds, and have obviously discovered you. I am writing this on my 51st birthday and have just used a welcome Amazon voucher to purchase the Transformation trilogy for my Kindle – yes, that is a bribe – put me on your blog!! Please use the royalties to enjoy a nice hot curry or, maybe, a few cold ones at Revan’s!


As to who I am – married, father of two grown ups (though not sure I’ve actually grown up!), grandad of one. An ex-civil servant, I have worked a few different jobs since. A congenital bad back (degenerative disc) and sciatica forced me out of full-time work a few years back now and, while I was laid up on benefits and I’d already run through the DVD library, I decided to turn my hand to writing for one last time. I had tried to write out the stories in my head in my late-teens/early-twenties but burnt the dross I typed up back then. I have now got six books out in two series, one being a collection of short stories. Check out my Facebook page here: Steve P Lee Author. I work part-time at the local motor auctioneers and sell hard rock/heavy metal patches and an assortment of ‘alternative’ goods on eBay.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Graeme Finch


If you want some back story you need to whiz back through Neals blog to the 17th of January 2010… that was a lot of clicking and scrolling Mr Asher. Have you ever thought about adding a search my blog button FFS?

In the ten years since I wrote a `Who Reads my Books?' piece’ for Neal's blog many things have transpired. Here’s an interesting one cribbed from that very piece: Neal’s own references to strong diseases and weak humans in Cowl will, if we are unlucky, prove to be one of those Scfi “cos that’s wot’l appen” moments some time down the line.

Well blown me down with a feather, ten years later Covid-19.

Everyone who reads Neals books needs to read Cowl, it will bend your head, but some of the visualisation is fabulous and it’s a golly good romp through time. I think it’s one of my favourites because it’s written about our shared home turf of Essex. Though I am originally from East London, the Essex countryside has been my easiest route to nature since I was a child, staying for weeks at a time at my nan's place in Kirby Cross near Frinton-on-Sea during the school holidays. Later, once I had the independence of two wheels with an engine, I explored the area (unknowingly) that Cowl starts in; the Saltmarshes and flats of what Essexites call the `The Thames Delta’… it isn’t a delta, but it’s not far off.

I did read Moby Dick, it was a monster of a book, never mind the whale. It’s very much an academic read, and useful glimpse into social history (a bit like Dickens and the Iliad). Is the Silmarillion still my favourite book? Probably. I’ve read a lot more Tolkien since then, mostly the later stuff edited and published by Christopher Tolkien, and as much to get an understanding of his father's mind (if such a thing is possible) as for the stories themselves. I could quite happily write a piece on Tolkien. But I can summarise my thoughts with: my gut says he got lost in world building, lost in his experience of the first world war, and trying somehow, through endless iterations of noble soldiers trooping into battle in gleaming armour, pennants held high, trying to find nobility in war and death, contrary to the reality of his experience of trench warfare. Apparently, I’m not the first person to think this. When asked, he denied it.

Where am I in science fiction now? Waiting for Neal's next. Halfway through a re-read of the Culture novels, which I only discovered in August 2011 while recuperating from a Lumbar fusion. I’m awaiting the last instalment of the Expanse. I’ve also discovered Adrian Tchaikovsky, read the Reynolds Revenger series and a few others.

I should mention Kevin Andersons the Seven suns Saga… or whatever it’s called. Utter bilge, I skimmed the second book in the series to find out what happened to one character who disappeared into a wormhole, but he didn’t come out at any point in the second book. After this I took both books and binned them so no one else would be subjected to them.

In-between doses of science fiction, I’ve been reading commentaries of the past the present and the future. Matt Ridley’ How Innovation Works, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. If you ever wondered why North America is English speaking in the main, and why South America is Spanish speaking? The answer is the Comanche.

It has been an interesting decade, I’ve moved house three times, lived full-time in a camper van with my other half for the best part of eight months as we travelled around Spain, Portugal, France, Italy Germany, Holland, Luxembourg and a big old chunk of the UK, finally settling in what has become my spiritual home, Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, a place I find difficult to put into words. Though I am trying to on my own new blog. What’s next? Trying to do that thing that Neal does so well. Write…  just sit down and make it up as you go along. My problem is that my brain doesn’t work like that, so I’ll have to find my own approach to the writings that litter my Onedrive. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Joerg Mosthaf


My name is Joerg Mosthaf and I work as physicist and team lead in the accelerator control system team of the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center HIT in Heidelberg, Germany (https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/interdisziplinaere-zentren/heidelberger-ionenstrahl-therapiezentrum-hit or https://www.heidelberg-university-hospital.com/diseases-treatments/cancer-and-tumor-diseases/proton-therapy-and-carbon-ion-therapy ). 

I did my “Wehrersatzdienst” (which used to be an alternative to mandatory military service in the late 20th century in Germany) as a paramedic for the red cross and afterwards studied physics with a minor in neurophysiology at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. During my final years there, I worked as a scientific assistant at the institute of medical informatics and did my thesis on real time temperature measurements via T1 relaxation times variation in MRI during RF ablation therapy. After a few years of working in IT/web project management and first level support I got the job in the accelerator control system team for the then newly built (partly still in construction) synchrotron accelerator at the Heidelberg university hospital. 

The Heidelberg Ion Therapy Centre (HIT) is a dedicated hadron accelerator facility for radio-therapeutical treatment of tumour patients. The two horizontally fixed treatment places, the 360° gantry, as well as the experimental area can be served with proton and carbon beams with qualified beam parameters, helium is available for the experimental area and soon for treatment, and oxygen is being tested.

The achieved energy range of 88-430 MeV/u for carbon ions and 48-221 MeV/u for protons is sufficient to reach a penetration depth of 20-300 mm in water. We use virtual accelerators (VAccs) to model all the different possible beamlines and used beam parameters (MEFI – Mass, Energy, Focus, Intensity). The MEFI consist of 4 ion types (M), 255 energy steps (E), 4 beam widths (F) and 10 ion flux steps (I). The beam is then applied with fast scanning magnets in a raster scan application to the tumor in the patient.

I work as team lead for the accelerator control system. My job is to keep the server system running that maintains all the different parameters for all the devices in the accelerator and sends them to the device control units (DCU) that control magnets, rf systems and so on. We use redundant host servers and a redundant SAN storage for our database and main control servers running in a virtual environment. The accelerator control room houses 18 acs clients on which our acs software clients run and is manned 24/7 by at least two people. We work 8 hour rotating shifts with 24h on call status thrown in. Therapy runs for about 10-12 hours a day for 5 days (mon-sat) with the rest of the time used for QA, beam conditioning and research. The research time is used by several institutes for anything from treatment research to material and electronics research.

I am also part of the beam conditioning team, that is responsible for correcting beam position, intensity and width in night shifts to get verified and validated beam parameter sets for use in therapy plans.

I also read Neals books and other science fiction and fantasy books. I specially like military science fiction books and books about first contact. My favorite authors (besides Neal of course) are Alastair Reynolds, James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Ian Banks, Evan Currie, Marco Kloos, Dennis E. Taylor, Jay Allen, Jodi Taylor, Mary Robinette Kowal but also Fantasy authors like Seanan McGuire, Terry Pratchet, Jim Butcher, Steven Brust and the classics like Robert Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov and so on.

Other hobbies are RPGs - I play and DM mainly Pathfinder, Starfinder, Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 and german RPG systems like Das Schwarze Auge (the dark eye in English), Die SchwarzeKatze and Hexxen 1733 – and computer games (Cyberpunk 2077, Division 1 and 2, Deep Rock Galactic AC Valhalla…) and watching tv series (Expanse, Star Trek, Enchanted, Bridgerton…)

I try to keep active but with my work schedule it is hard to get any organised sport in and I usually am to lazy after 10 hours of night shift to do anything else than read, play or watch tv 😉) 

Here a few pictures of HIT:


Figure 1 Accelerator overview

1. Ion sources (2 ECR ion sources for carbon/oxygen, hydrogen/protons and helium)

2. Linear accelerator up to ~0.10 c

3. Synchrotron accelerator up to ~0.75 c

4. High energy beam line to the patient treatment rooms

5. Nozzle in patient treatment room

6. Patient position control with digital x-ray system

7. 360° rotating ion gantry with sub millimetre precision

8. Gantry patient treatment room with rotating x-ray systems

9. Experimental room for research


Figure 2 External view of the HIT facility


Figure 3 Gantry treatment room with nozzle at 0°


 Figure 4 Gantry back room with the rotating part of the gantry visible, nozzle at 90°



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Doug Whipple



Hi Neal, 

I hope this doesn’t end up being too boring. I am 71, been reading since I can remember. I bought my first book, Gunner Cade, in the late 1950’s with money I earned berry picking. And I’ve never looked back. I think I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 hardback books. Most would be split between Science Fiction/Fantasy and History, mostly military. But, I do read religion, philosophy, detective stories, and just about anything else. 


I started out working construction, then put myself through college, although I admit that my degree didn’t fit me for any real work (Political Science), but I thoroughly enjoyed my years of college, 1967-1971. I have worked as a greenskeeper, a logger, a laborer on construction sites, a medical records manager and finally as a Data Base Administrator for 35 years. I know being a DBA sounds exciting and adventurous, but mostly it wasn’t except when something went really wrong, which was more sphincter tightening than exciting, although it usually involved copious amounts of yelling, panicking, hand wringing and finger pointing by management.  

I have been retired for the last 4 years, doing my hobbies of reading, shooting and being outdoors whenever possible. 

I have been married for 23 years and we have 1 daughter who is smarter and better looking than either one of us. 


My first book of yours was GRIDLINKED. I was hooked. One thing I would live to see some more of, is the hornet hive minds. What a great concept. The whole Polity universe is so complex and dense, it seems real, like it exists just out of reach, and I love that the books deal with big ideas, and are so well written that 100 pages can go by before I notice I have been reading for awhile. And, your names and slang are absolutely spot on, they seem natural and authentic. And, NO ONE, can write a combat scenario that is breathtaking, vivid and page turning as you. To me, you rank with the masters, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Van Vogt and others from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. 

And, just as an aside, I really like being able to vicariously enjoy your adventures both in Essex and Crete. 

Thanks, 

Doug Whipple

Take care Neal, you have brought a lot of joy and thought to my life.