Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prador Moon Reviews

Other than to say thank you very much every now and again I don’t normally make any reply to reviews. Having seen quite a few of them now I know that every time I come across something negative in one review I can point at a number of others that flatly contradict that negativity in every detail. However (you knew that was coming didn’t you), despite the many positive reviews out there, I am getting a little hacked off with the nature of some of the adverse responses to Prador Moon. It is, apparently a) Too short b) Too expensive c) Too simple.
Now, let me just point out that it is simple because the story … erm, let me think … because it is short? In its way this book is a bit of a reply to those other reviewers who claim my books are far too complex and convoluted (though that wasn’t the intention). It’s a straightforward story with a lot less plot threads than usual something I’ve been aiming at more lately because my plot threads usually seem to proliferate during the writing of the first two thirds of a book and I then spend as much time extracting and discarding threads as I do writing the last third of the book. It’s short because that is what the publisher in this case requested. As to the price let me just say, “What's that got to do with me?”

Authors have as much to do with the cover price of books as the inventor of sherbet dips has to do with what they sell for in the sweet shop. And as for the kind soul who put up a two star review on without even reading the book and because of ‘a’ and ‘b’ above … well, the page count is there and the price is there, you either buy it or you don’t, but you don’t put up a negative review of something you haven’t even read!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another Translation.

Ah, the juggernaut rolls on: the Czech publisher Polaris have now made an offer for Brass Man, which they intend to publish in the next twelve months. Thus far they have published The Skinner and Gridlinked, with The Line of Polity next. The Skinner won the Salamander Award (the picture here is of the publisher collecting the award) given by the Czech Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror as the best SF book published there in 2004. This was out of a shortlist of Blood Music by Greg Bear, Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds, The Scar by China Mieville and A Deepness Upon the Sky by Vernor Vinge. What an excellent list! The following year Gridlinked appeared on the shortlist, but didn’t win. What’s really good about all this, of course, is that most of the foreign publishers who have taken my first books for translation, are now coming back for more.

Other news: in a recent phone call Jason Williams of Night Shade Books has expressed surprise and delight at the sales of Prador Moon. The first print run is all but gone and orders are still coming in. He also made a book club deal with it too. And it now seems likely that there’ll be a British edition of Prador Moon and a collection of Polity short stories including those published in Asimov’s, Interzone and elsewhere.

I’m presently working through the editing of Hilldiggers, with Line War now at over 40,000 words sitting to one side. Also set to one side at the moment is a another book I’ve started for Night Shade Books, which tells the story of Cormac’s early years.

Monday, November 27, 2006

God stuff.

Ah, I do like this:

“Wars are still waged, crimes committed, and science undone out of deference to an invisible being who is believed to have created the entire cosmos, fine-tuned the constants of nature, blanketed the earth with 20,000 distinct species of grasshopper, and yet still remains so provincial a creature as to concern himself with what consenting adults do for pleasure in the privacy of their bedrooms.”
– Sam Harris.

Get this! It’s a miracle:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Peter Watts

Some while ago Tor US sent me an ARC of Peter Watts’ excellent book Blindsight, which I read almost in a state of shock because it was so good, and for which I wrote the blurb:

Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development, and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness. What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this.”

A short while after this I was checking a few things out on the net when I discovered Peter has an excellent website here -- particularly worth checking out is his lecture on Vampire Domestication To my delight I discovered that he already had four other SF books published, so I got chatting with him and arranged a books exchange. Subsequently I received signed copies of Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth B-Max and Behemoth Seppuku (The last two here are actually one book divided into two for the benefit of American book sellers – perhaps their staff have been suing for RSI damages caused by lifting any book of more than 110,000 words).

I’ve read all four books now and though I don’t think the last three are as good as Blindsight (which I have to say is the best SF book I have read in years), I definitely put them in a league ahead of most stuff out there. Really, if I hadn’t read Blindsight, Starfish would have been at the top of my best SF book list for the last few years, with the others a short distance behind it.

Why these books are not much more well-known and why they are not published in Britain is a complete mystery to me. Maybe, as some reviewers have opined, they’re too dark and cynical. Maybe they’re too intelligent. Whatever. I think they are far more deserving of plaudits than so many we’ve seen on the shortlists of various awards over very many years.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Life on Earth II

Who saw Life on Earth a couple of nights back? It showed chimps going to war with another tribe of their own kind, then killing a baby (enemy) chimp and eating it. These particular scenes reminded me of that other shocker a few years back when we were shown chimps hunting down one of another species of monkey and tearing it apart in a tree top – eating it while it was still screaming. What a slap in the face for those twats who talk about war and cruelty being the territory of humans only. And oh how the plonkers who believe in a kind and cuddly Mother Nature must be cringing! Nature, my friends, is not all fluffy bunnies, perfectly integrated ecologies and balance overseen by a benevolent Gaia. It’s a wilderbeast shrieking while a lion eats its guts, it’s parasites boring into living flesh, a starving elephant losing its last teeth and having its trunk torn off by hyenas, it is ebola, ameobic dysentry, flu, leprosy… And we humans are just one other product of nature.

This program also showed a tree falling in the rain forest, and the subsequent growth around that fallen giant. This was very interesting, and rather reminded me of the grass fires witnessed in the previous program. Did the eco-friendly environmentally aware BBC film makers stand around waiting for that tree to fall naturally? Did they buggery: “Hey guys, turn those cameras on – I’m just going for a stroll with my chainsaw.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

German Sable Keech.

But the Japanese have got some catching up to do with the Germans. Bastei Lubbe have bought everything up to Hilldiggers, in fact they took Polity Agent before anyone had seen it and Hilldiggers before I’d even written it. I’m really grateful for their confidence in me, if somewhat spooked too.

My thanks of course to Stefan Bauer. It must be a bugger of a market there when it seems that every German I’ve encountered tells me they read the English version!

Here then is the cover of The Voyage of the Sable Keech. Please, no comments about loud and smelly flatulence, and no giggling. We are serious literary people here…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cowl in Japan.

Liz Johnson (Rights & Co-editions Manager at Macmillan) “…is truly delighted to report a Japanese deal for COWL. This is particularly exciting news as the Japanese fiction (and particularly Sci-fi) market is incredibly difficult at the moment - so many congratulations! Hayakawa Publishing Inc. will publish in paperback within 24 months.”

Excellent stuff – that’s country number nine after the USA, Russia, Germany, France, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Romania.

Now, my thanks to Hayato Kato who approached me to get one of my short stories (The Veteran) published in Hayakawa's magazine. He took it upon himself to push me out there and doubtless this result is much due to him!

Casino Royale

As James Bond, Sean Connery looked tough, he looked like the kind of guy who could rip off your head and crap down your neck. Lazenby is a vague blur in my mind. To my recollection he had some of that Conneryishness but strayed into the territory of the Milk Tray man. Roger Moore, frankly, looked incapable of ripping the skin off a banana and probably needed a stunt double for any scene where he had to walk fast. Dalton and Brosnan are also vague blurs, the latter looking like he should have been selling Grecian 2000 before moving into a career in televangelism, but then both of these were overshadowed by special effects and an increasingly silly array of gadgets and improbable villains.

When it became known that Daniel Craig was to play James Bond, there were those in the media who immediately started attacking him. Having seen him in Archangel I thought this all a bit unfair. Now having seen him in Casino Royale I’d like the reporters concerned to be force-fed their own newspapers, anally. Craig was bloody excellent. He can do smooth, but with a nicely thuggish undertone, and has a lot more emotional depth than all the previous Bonds, including Connery. I think he’s the best yet.

It was also good that this Bond movie was without gadgets or ridiculous hitmen with steel teeth. Though updated, it was very true to the book. Are film directors starting to realise that CGI has levelled the special effects playing field and that story and character are once again of prime importance? I hope so.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Global warming worse than we thought...

I had to swipe this from Jerry Wright's post on the Asimov's board - amused the hell out of me.

Human induced Global Warming is a worse problem than even Drs. Hansen and Mann have told us. Evidence is accumulating the effects extend solar system wide.

On Pluto:

On Triton:

On Saturn:

On Jupiter:

On Mars:

Wonderful - who realised the sales of SUVs extended so far!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Beckett and co.

I sometimes I wonder if I’m awake or if I've drifted off to sleep and am now having a nightmare about living in Swiftian political satire.

So, we have firemen who refuse to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march being pilloried and then sent for ‘diversity training’ (Yeah, okay, what about the right of a heterosexual man to feel pretty damned uncomfortable dressed as a fireman amidst a bunch of gays? How about if he dressed as an American indian or motorcycle cop, or a construction worker?) We have an anti-Midas left-wing demagogue waiting to grab the reins of power – a prick who thinks it perfectly fine to change the law because those whose opinions he doesn’t agree with aren't being thrown into prison. And then we have Margaret Beckett, who claims that those who disagree with the AGW theory are little different from supporters of Islamic terrorism and should be denied access to the media. (Yep, people like me frequently support those strapping Semtex around their waists and converting innocent people into something like an abbatoir waste-heap.) I’d like to think she’s just a moronic twat who put her foot in her mouth. The unfortunate reality is that she’s only moronic in so far as she said out loud what she and all her comrades believe.

Let me reprise that: we have re-education camps for the politically incorrect, we have a potential leader ready to trample over the legal system to implement his ideology, and we have a minister now quite prepared to destroy the freedom of the press and free speech (though of course moves have already been made in that direction). And these are just three recent examples.

A message to all those who voted this herd of scabrous pus-dripping Orwellian pigs to the trough of power not once but twice: DON’T FUCKING DO IT AGAIN! Have you actually joined up the dots now, after nine years, and understood what a monster you’ve unleashed on us all? Wake up, just because this party is called Labour does not mean it has anything at all to do with the working man. Another vote for these cunts is another vote for an increasingly totalitarian government. Vote for them again and it is quite likely you’ll lose the right to vote them out of power next time round. Vote for them and you are voting for the future of your child – one in which he reports your political incorrectness, or a clip round the ear you gave him, to the school authorities so he gets taken away and you get sent for re-education. Vote for them and eventually all you earn will be taken away to be redistributed on the basis of need – decided by the government, of course. Vote for them and it’ll be the job of some indolent over-paid public sector official to tell you when to take a shit in the morning and how much broccoli to have with your vegetarian eco-friendly fucking nut-roast.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Control Freaks

To these words add one of the phrases below: ‘If something is not done catastrophe will ensue, so I am going to make lots of new rules, regulations and laws that you must obey, because’

you are too fat,
you smoke too much,
the planet is warming,
you drink too much,
you drive too fast,
you produce too much waste,
you are racist,
you are homophobic ,
the terrorist threat is growing,
you might hurt yourself,
you smack your children,
you’ve got a job and others haven’t,
you’re too rich,
an Ice Age is coming,
the oil is running out,

Then, after adding your chosen phrase, now add these words: ‘and you are going to pay and pay and pay until your bum-hole squeaks.’ These particular words can also be added to the phrases below:

I want a cushy number in Brussels
I want to rescue the children of Africa
I want a fat pension,
I want another pay rise,
I want my son/daughter/wife/husband/aromatherapist to have a cushy number in Brussels
I want all people to be equal, whether or not that’s true
I want my party financier to have this contract

It’s easy enough to think of many more…

No, sorry, it's Climate Change.

It’s interesting how the AGW alarmists (those of a particular political stripe who try to distort reality by tampering with how we describe it) are now modifying their language. Global Warming is now Climate Change. How perfect. This covers them when, embarrassingly, Earth’s climate fails to conform to their models, when we actually have a few cold years, when the Ross Ice Shelf fails to collapse, or when the oceans fail to rise up and drown our modern day coastal cities of Sodom and Gomorra. Also, Climate Change is an excellent catch-all on which all these can be blamed: a cold wet winter, heavy snowfall, expansion of the ice-caps, drops in sea temperature, hurricanes, tornados and quite probably genital warts. All man-made of course and all due, when you shunt aside the words ‘Climate Change’, to Global Warming. For the alarmists it's rather annoying that we aren’t all being fried or drowned now for our capitalist sins.

From 1895 until the 1930’s similar alarmists peddled a coming ice age. Overlapping this, in the period from the late 1920’s until the 1960’s, they warned of global warming. In a similar sort of overlap from the 1950’s until the 1970’s they were back to telling us the big freeze was coming. And now that we’ve moved back into a global warming phase I guess the alarmists need to cover their arses for when the fashion changes yet again. I look forward to further modifications of language. I wonder when sea level rises will become sea level fluctuations, when melting ice caps will become Artic temperature variations. You see, should AGW be disproved you need to get your catch phrase into place else the funding just might stop rolling in. ‘Climate Change’ is excellent – you can be really alarmist about stuff that has been happening to this planet for four and a half billion years.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Post.

Sigh, I sometimes wonder whether sending people signed copies of my books is worth the hassle. Some of you reading this may recollect my rant about the Canadian post office, with its stringent bureaucratic bullshit about how parcels should be addressed. They lost one parcel and returned another parcel to me (I did not put a senders address on the front, so some twat looked inside the parcel to find said address so as to return the parcel). But this was not the end of the matter. Sticking utterly to the letter of Canadian post office law I sent books in two parcels, because in one parcel they were nearing the weight limit and I didn’t want mistakes. These parcels were also correctly addressed and signed-for delivery.

The recipient of these parcels wasn’t in the office when they got there so one of the two parcels went to the local post office. He had to pay $8.00 in duties for for the privilege of collecting it. The second parcel, one that wasn’t even searched by Canada Customs, was decreed to be of a value in excess of $870.00 CDN. As the recipient said to me “WTF!!!! Are they on crack???” They tried to charge him almost $60.00 in duties on books whose value came $37.00 on the custom’s declaration form. “They’ve got to be on drugs!!!! And not even the good ones!!!!”

He observed:
“Neal, please don’t get me wrong because I’d never devalue your work because yes, I’m definitely a fan and I REALLY can’t wait to get those books in my hands… But, there’s no fricken’ way in hell I’m going to pay twice the amount of the declared value in duties so that some petty, self-important bureaucrat can pad his personal bonus for revenue generated!”

He disputed the duty charges and sent the package back to Canada Customs to be re-evaluated. Customs we’re then supposed to contact him so that they could have an “informed discussion” about the value of the contents.

“F*ck (again!!!)”

The final result of this was an apology from Canadian Customs. Apparently a computer glitch resulted in the books being overvalued by a factor of 10. How remiss of them.

My latest bit of fun, which prompted this bit of blogging, concerned a copy of Polity Agent sent to a guy in the USA. Despite being bubble-wrapped and placed inside a padded envelope, the book arrived with its spine damaged and dust jacket split top and bottom (see the pictures). I now must make a compensation claim (I won’t be paid the full value) and send another book from a limited supply. Be nice if the postal workers concerned treated parcels with a little respect rather than using them to practise drop goals.

Anyway, it is now an unfortunate necessity for me to send books wrapped in bubble-wrap inside corrugated cardboard boxes, which I’ll have to buy, so costs just went up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Life on Earth.

The green/environmental agenda, with its concomitant propaganda and politics, is worming its way into everything in an extremely irritating manner. The sainted David Attenborough, who one would like ot think above such things, shows himself to be of the same BBC mindset as usual. Last week Life on Earth showed a Polar bear struggling across melting ice in search of food, then showed it trying to find a walrus dinner and paying the penalty for trying to attack something the size of a parcel truck. Now, every year large areas of the sea around the Arctic freeze, and every year they thaw. A Polar bear struggling across melting ice is not going to be an uncommon sight. Also, an animal trying to bite off a bit more than it can chew is not uncommon either. It’s called nature, and nature is not kind, it is ruthless and unforgiving. However, whilst displaying these films clips, Attenborough had to wax cringingly bathetic and deliver his BBC-approved homilies about man-made global warming.

This week we saw a grass fire that ‘consumes everything in its path including the old and young’ at which point we were shown the skeleton of a gazelle lying on still-smoking ground. Right, so this fire, which consumes everything in its path, consumed the animal’s flesh, fat and internal organs, but selectively left clean white bones? You also have to wonder how long the BBC film crew had to hang around to wait for a grass fire: “Get those cameras ready, guys – I’m just going for a smoke.”

Back to AGW: My parents bought me a year's subscription to Scientific American, which has had some interesting stuff in it. A recent issue I had to bin, however, since it seems wholly an AGW propaganda pamphlet. I think the article that finished it for me was the one about aircraft vapour trails contributing to global warming i.e. the trails hold in planetary heat during the night. The emphasis was all on that, not on the other point, which was quickly glossed over, about vapour trails reflecting sunlight during the day, thus reducing warming.

AGW believer take note of this.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More Totalitarianism.

So, in his wisdom the Anti-Midas (A guy who touches gold and turns it into crap), Gordon Brown, has decided that though the Nick Griffin and Mark Collett of the execrable BNP have been acquitted by jury of stirring up racial hatred he’s going to change the law because, "Any preaching of religious or racial hatred will offend mainstream opinion in this country and I think we have got to do whatever we can to root it out, from whatever quarter it comes."

That would be mainstream opinion in this country that those in the Labour party agree with, of course.

During nine years in office Labour has put more than 3,000 new crimes on the books, brought in five Acts on immigration, seven on terrorism, 10 on education, 11 on health and social care and 23 on criminal justice. Obviously this just isn’t enough to keep us under control.

Maybe Brown will use the ‘Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act’ which now apparently allows Ministers to enact or alter or abolish just about anything they choose without having to put it through Parliament.

What a wonderful time we’re going to have when Brown finally gets his sticky hands on the reins of power.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The God Delusion.

Perhaps I need to reiterate my position on god, gods, whatever. If someone says to me, in all seriousness, “I believe in the tooth fairy, or Santa Claus, the rain-making pink elephant, or (that old favourite) the flying spaghetti monster,” I will consider that person to be a deluded idiot, possibly a dangerous deluded idiot. If a person says to me, “I believe in God,” my opinion is exactly the same, though perhaps with some sympathy for him if, like most, he was indoctrinated from birth. Because his belief is part of a religion this does not mean that I have to respect either him or his beliefs. The numbers game does not work. Just because he is one of a large number of irrational fools does not make him more worthy of respect than the guy who believes aliens from Andromeda are controlling his mind whenever he’s not wearing his foil hat and rubber boots.


Oh dear, the presenters on TV are certainly a bunch of liberal lefty disconnected-from-reality tossers. This morning there was stuff about the Farepak collapse in which people lost their savings. One person highlighted was a single mother of five living in a rather nice house. Um, let me think, how does she pay for it all? Oh yeah – she doesn’t. They showed her on the phone listening to a Farepak recorded message. Apparently she knew there was compensation but did not know how to get her hands on it. There is no compensation. If your savings company goes bust you lose your savings. The money that is being made available is being donated by supermarkets as a publicity stunt. The GMTV presenters were then getting aeriated with some minister and asking why the government can’t put its hand in its pocket. FUCK OFF! The government doesn’t put its hand in ITS pocket; it puts its hand in OUR pockets! When are tossers like this going to realise that every single penny the government spends has been screwed out of the working population of this country? It’s not a bottomless fund of free money. If these GMTV presenters feel so strongly about all this then maybe they can dip into their own bulging pockets? Anyway, I look forward to hearing of Gordon Brown coming to the rescue, since he is always so generous with other people’s cash.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Crystal Rain - Tobias Buckell

Well, for various reasons I’ve not been reading as much as usual, and my ‘to read’ pile has been stacking up. First on my list upon returning to it was Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell. It’s always a little worrying reading a book by an author you’ve had contact with since you always feel the urge to say something nice even if you don’t mean it. I’ve tried to hammer down on that over the last few years. Now I will only comment on a book if it is one that grabs me and keeps me focused on it throughout; one I’ll read in preference to doing just about anything else. I’m happy to say that Crystal Rain is such a book. It’s got all the stuff I like: a bastard superhuman immortal, cruel rip-your-guts-out aliens, action, characters I cared about and a good story. If you like my stuff, I rather think you’ll like this too.