Friday, February 29, 2008

Gardner Dozois's 23rd Year's Best.

Year's Best!

Though it's been on my shelf for a while, I've just started delving into this and full of good reads it is too. It also contains 'Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck' so maybe I'm just a little biased.


Just found this in my files - my prediction (I think it appeared in Interzone) for the year 2005...

Costs at Virgin Galactic spiral out of control as the company tries to comply with HSE guidelines for interplanetary spacecraft. However, the killer blow comes from the new Equalities quango with its demand for wheelchair access and toilets for the disabled on SpaceShipTwo. Rumours that the same quango will ban zebra crossings as racially insensitive are much exaggerated, ministers say, they only intend to change the colours.

According to detractors, the 100% pass rate in A levels this year is due to social engineering and manipulation of the figures. The education minister replied, “The idea that pupils might fail these exams is old-fashioned. Everyone is equal … oink.”

Since the bombing of the Iranian nuclear facilities petrol prices have passed £1 a litre. Since their marginal electoral victory, Labour have introduced twenty new initiatives that have achieved nothing and twenty new taxes to pay for them. Meanwhile, it has come as no surprise to anyone that Tony and Cherie Blair are co-directors of ASBO™ – the new ‘street accessories’ retail outlet.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Crete Adventure (delayed)

I will write more about this anon, but right now I've got loads of work to do and rather a lot on my mind. However, just to keep it live, here's a picture of the view from our front terrace out there...

Now is that cool enough to set teeth gnashing?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Article 11: Music Please

Here's another one of my old articles. You can see it's old because I was still having to do other work to support myself. As I recollect this caused much annoyance in certain circles...

Music Please.

I have a friend who is in the music business just as I am in the writing business i.e. we’re contenders, but we both have to work for a living. In the winter we work together and much of our time is spent discussing our respective arts while sipping coffee and staring out of a truck window at the rain. When we each manage an ego bybass we agree that our pursuits and our attitudes are similar in many respects. Perhaps it is that Essex boy approach to the art world in that when you can bank it, it’s worth something.

My friend likes music that is clean, distinct, and not amenable to obfuscation. I listened to him play A Whiter Shade of Pale on the alto sax and understood what he meant. He does not like bad jazz. Many musicians claim to play jazz because it gives them ‘freedom of expression, man’. The truth is that they play it because it gives them freedom from discipline; from the necessity of getting it right. And thus, by a round about route, we come to the plotless writing that you often find under the slipstream label.

This writing is easy to spot. The protagonist usually spends most of his time wandering round an urban landscape pursuing a dysfunctional sex life while some vaguely weird things happen, just, happen. The piece you will read I shall not call it a story starts, runs for a few pages, then stops. There is no real beginning, middle, or end. It is authorial masturbation that leaves the reader thinking, ‘Well, what about me?’. Raymond Chandler said that when he felt a story was flagging he’d walk in a man with a gun. In slipstream the man remains on the other side of the door, nothing is resolved, and the reader wonders if there ever was anything to resolve. I get a lump of frustration developing in my stomach when I find myself reading one of these pieces and it slowly dawning on me that it is not going to have an ending, that the characters will not have changed and their squalid existence will just ... continue. Why, then, is this stuff published?

If you listen to a piece of badly played modern jazz you will, if you have any sensibilities, wonder where the melody is. You’ll wonder why you’re listening to this disjointed annoying racket when the guy on the stool next to you will say, “Wow, ... scale!” and you’ll nod your head knowingly and reply, “Yeah ... man.” We all hate to appear ignorant. It is this hatred of ignorance that allows such idiocies as a soiled bed in the Tate gallery. It is the very same that allows the above described rubbish to appear under the slipstream label. People will remain silent about it because they are frightened of admitting that they haven’t got the point. There is no point. And those guilty of perpetrating it, writers and publishers, are very often those who get a bit too arty for their own good, and are cringing at the prospect of being accused of something so demeaning as science fiction. My goodness.

You are a story teller are you? If such you are then put yourself in front of an audience and tell your story. If, when you have finished, your story requires justification then it was not a story. A story completes. What you read was very likely slipstream. I am not saying you should not write this stuff. It is one of the better methods of beating the block and freeing up the creative faculties. Sometimes you’ll end up with a sentence or two, maybe a paragraph, that you can use in a real story.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Intelligent (snigger) Design?

I picked up on this site from Charles Stross’s blog. Some real gems here.
One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn't possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.

I am a bit troubled. I believe my son has a girlfriend, because she left a dirty magazine with men in it under his bed. My son is only 16 and I really don't think he's ready to date yet. What's worse is that he's sneaking some girl to his room behind my back. I need help, God! I want my son to stop being so secretive!
It is not known whether God created oil when he made the earth 6000 years ago, or whether oil and coal deposits were generated during Noah's flood 4000 years ago. It does not mattter. What does matter is if you don't believe that God created the earth 6000 years ago, you are going to Hell.
Masturbation can sometimes be wrong and it can sometimes not. If you masturbate thinking about how pretty the flowers are and how you want a puppy, essentially that's not wrong. But most times, that is not the case. I believe that when one masturbates a high percentage of the time they are fantasizing about a sexual partner therefore making masturbation lust. Lust, as the Bible states, is a sin. But masturbation is something that people in general should stay away from because it's hard not to lust whilst doing it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Signing at Forbidden Planet.

Okay, I'll be doing a signing at Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue on 5th April from 1 till 2. There'll be copies of the hardcover Line War and doubtless numerous others of my books, including paperback copies of Hilldiggers. Bring you old copies of my books and I'll sign them too ... bring copies of other people's books and I'll sign them, bring your electricity bill ... I'm not proud.

Work Work Work.

Hey, guys, I didn’t think I would have much time to blog, but obviously the last entry refutes that idea. I’m presently working on Orbus, should be receiving edits for Scorpion Memory sometime soon, have put together the short story collection and recently had some other work hit me out of the blue. Over the last week I’ve been working on some ideas for a ‘Heavy Metal’ feature, but though I’d like to tell you more about that, I can’t. Really, if I told you I’d have to then post this special optic virus I’ve created. It loads through your eyes the moment you look at it and turns your brains into Ardennes pate, and sliced tomatoes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Potugese Cowl Cover.

Nuno Fonseca, who has been invited to be the editor of a Portugese SF magazine called Nova just sent me the cover of the Portugese version of Cowl. I've seen it and have a few copies of it stowed away in my loft but, what the hell, here it is.

Cretan Birthday

Whilst out in Crete I had a surprise birthday party sprung on me
and, as the cards here demonstrate, some of the ex-pat community there seem to have the right sense of humour.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

French Covers

The French cover for the trade paperback of The Skinner, illustrated by Stephan Martiniere has to be the best I've seen. Now the publishers Fleuve Noir have once again shown how good they are at this sort of thing. Here is their mass-market paperback cover of The Skinner and their cover for Cowl. Those who have read the books will be able to work out which is which without understanding the language.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Line War

Now, as I was reminded over on myspace: let's not forget the main event. Line War will be published on the 4th of April. And you can obtain it here on Amazon.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Gabble & Other Stories

Woot! Here we go...

Oh, and lest I forget. George Mann posting on here has reminded me that you can find two of my Mason's Rats stories in the The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction.

Writing News Update

Okay, that’s a wrap. Gardner Dozois has accepted a story for his New Space Opera II. It’s called Shell Game, involves the Polity and another new set of rather nasty aliens. Other news: I’ve just sent off the short story collection to Macmillan. Some of you will have read some of the stories since they are ones that have appears in Asimov’s, Interzone and various ‘Year’s Best’ collections, but I guarantee none of you will have read them all. Here’s a list of the stories, which may be subject to change:
1. Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck
2. Putrefactors
3. Another England
4. Garp and Geronamid
5. The Sea of Death
6. Alien Archaeology
7. Acephalous Dreams
8. The Veteran
9. Snow in the Desert
10. Strood
11. Choudapt
12. Adaptogenic
13. The Gabble
At some point, when I can easily work out how to change an Adobe image to a jpg I’ll put up the cover here with its seriously weird gabbleduck picture.
Addition: Here's something I probably haven't mentioned. You can go listen to one of these stories over here at Escape Pod!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Writing News Update

Here’s a bit of an update on the writing and so forth:

My Czech publishers - Polaris - have offered for rights of The Voyage of the Sable Keech. Publication will be within 12 months, licence limited to 4 years.

Nightshade books are publishing Shadow of the Scorpion on May 1st this year. This is a book (longer than Prador Moon) covering some early episodes of Cormac’s life:

Raised to adulthood during the end of the war between the human Polity and the vicious arthropoid race the Prador, Ian Cormac is haunted by childhood memories of a sinister scorpion-shaped war drone and the burden of losses he doesn’t remember. In the years following the war he signs up with Earth Central Security, and is sent out to help either restore or maintain order on worlds devastated by Prador bombardment. There he discovers that though the old enemy remains as murderous as ever, it is not anywhere near as perfidious or dangerous as some of his fellow humans, some closer to him than he would like. Amidst the ruins left by war-time genocides, he discovers in himself a cold capacity for violence, learns some horrible truths about his own past and, set upon a course of vengeance, tries to stay alive.

As for writing done while in Crete: I completed the above mentioned book, a 10,000 word story for Gardner Dozois’s New Space Opera II and am more than a third of the way into Orbus, a follow-up to The Voyage of the Sable Keech:

The Old Captain, Orbus – a sadist in charge of a crew of masochists – became a reformed character at the end of The Voyage of the Sable Keech and took over the captaincy of the spaceship the Gurnard. Meanwhile, the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, had seized control of a Prador dreadnought, killing its entire crew, and was heading back to the Prador Third Kingdom to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed. Both these characters are heading for ‘The Graveyard’ (mentioned in Alien Archaeology – Asimov’s) a buffer zone between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, the perhaps into the kingdom itself. Orbus has a few unresolved issues about the Prador and about Vrell in particular …

Cretan Adventure: Episode One.

Alright, I feel completely out of the loop at the moment because, for the last four months, me and Caroline have been living on Crete, specifically, living in the house we bought there and trying to solve its numerous problems. Now, before I hear cries of, “Rich fat bastard author!” let me point out a few facts: it is still possible to buy a place out there for less than it would cost to buy a garage in Essex, there’s plenty of people reading this who earn a damned sight more and are worth a damned sight more than us, and we are unencumbered by children, but, most important of all, mine is a job that can be done anywhere in the world. Glad to get that bit out of the way.
We went to Crete in October aware that we would have plenty to do. The house was provided with a shower, sink and toilet in an untiled bathroom and though there were sockets and light switches in the walls there were no lights – just wires sticking out of the walls. The only furnishings there, were the kitchen sink unit, a cupboard above it, and a set of shelves. The walls had been repainted, covering up the mould, and the water and power were off.
First off we stopped in a hotel in Heraklion while visiting our lawyer to collect the deeds and buy some essentials. Caroline got some bedding and a kettle, whilst my first aim was to get hold of an electric drill, then we drove a rental car on the two hour journey to Eastern Crete. Upon our arrival there we discovered from the agent that the key was in the usual place, under a rock on the window sill, then found out from him where we might be able to get hold of a bed which, making a mockery of deliveries from British firms, turned up that very evening. We were in quite easily, since we were expecting to sleep on liloes that night, and spent the first evening by lamplight sitting on our suitcases, drinking Metaxa.