Monday, March 31, 2008

Writing News.

Well this is rather nice. As of right now on, Line War is at number 4 in the SF bestsellers (it’s been hanging around there for a while) and number 72 in books overall. I’ve also just been told that the first print run of Hilldiggers paperback sold out last month and that they’re having to reprint, before the actual release date.

Other news: I’m 80,000 words into Orbus. Also, very soon, I hope to be posting some news about some, well, Hollywood stuff. I’ve really had to clamp down to prevent myself shouting about this… damn, shut up Neal.


Neal Asher

Line War

RRP: £17.99
Our Price: £14.99

Line War is the fifth novel in his increasingly popular Agent Cormac series. The Polity is under attack from a 'melded' AI entity with control of the lethal Jain technology, yet the invasion seems to have no coherence. Further seemingly indiscriminate slaughter ensue and Ian Cormac is sent to investigate but he's struggling to control a new ability no human should possess. What's happening could bring about the end of the Polity itself.

All Orders must be placed before 12pm on Friday 4th April

Friday, March 28, 2008

Subscribe to The Skinner.

Righto, I've put one of these wdigets on this blog for those who might like to subscribe:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Smoking Wheezes.

Picture the scene: it is a grey cold and colourless day and we focus on an old lady motoring down the pavement on her mobility scooter and gazing miserably at the big CLOSED sign outside the local bingo hall. Then, suddenly, she is on a Caribbean beach, she is happy, wearing sunglasses and bright clothing, her mobility scooter painted in bright colours too. Everything is palm trees, pinacolatas and sunshine. And why? Because she played Lotto Bingo, obviously. Hey, isn’t it nice to know that after driving numerous bingo halls out of business with the smoking ban that the government is cashing in?

The other smoking wheeze (excuse the pun) from our government is to force shopkeepers to take cigarettes off display and hide them under the counter. This is to discourage under-age smokers, apparently. Funny, I thought it was against the law for anyone under 18 to either buy or smoke cigarettes. Again, in the typical New Labour manner: more new legislation and laws rather than ENFORCING THE LAWS WE ALREADY HAVE!

Friday, March 21, 2008

My First Admittance to Hospital.

Subtitle: Brought Down to Earth with a Thump.

In my youth visits to the hospital were either grudging attendances on sick kin or occasional visits to A&E. One time I enthusiastically picked up and eraser thrown at me by a work-mate then as I stood found myself lifting a cast-iron engine block mounting cube (a lump of metal you bolt an engine block to on a surface table for marking out or measurement – it takes two people to lift it) with my head underneath one of the mounting studs, which subsequently slid down. I noted the lump of scalp on the end of the stud, slapped a hand over my forehead and fled to the toilets where, in the mirror, I was greeted by the sight of a flap of my scalp lifting on each pulse of blood.

In recent years my visits to hospital have become more frequent and come to involve death; you get older and more people you know get seriously ill and sometimes die. Like Alan Wood in the dedication in Cowl, and like my father last year. However, I’ve never needed to go beyond A&E for a problem of my own.

Last Friday I thought to myself damn, my bottom is sore, and wondered if I was paying the penalty of my drink-sodden lifestyle with piles. Over the weekend the pain in my arse grew, unrelieved by haemorrhoid cream, but I managed, much to my surprise, to get an appointment with the doctor’s on Monday. To be fair the doctor was probably misled by my mention of piles and probably, having to deal with dim patients was why he asked me three times if I’d had them before (I hadn’t) and if there was any blood (there wasn’t). He also didn’t get to inspect matters too closely since, after his first attempt, he had to peel me off the ceiling. He prescribed a cream, but it didn’t do any good.

Now here’s where the bottom humour starts to wane as soreness turns to pain and then PAIN. After a day in bed I got to see another doctor on an emergency basis. He tried the anal-inspection routine then after digging my fingernails out of the wall came to a conclusion: pain like that was probably due to an infection, probably an abscess. He prescribed strong painkillers and antibiotics and, if things weren’t getting any better within 48 hours I would have to go to hospital where, under general anaesthetic, they would probably have to open drain and pack the abscess.

The pain killers kicked in for a while, at least enabling me to get out of the car, but thereafter it seemed I might just as well have been eating Smarties. You know the expression ‘writhing in pain’? … well I certainly do now, only I was writhing the top half of my body and my feet because any movement of my middle section resulted in an invisible demon shoving a soldering iron up my arse. I was making noises too – little grunts and groans were escaping no matter how much I clenched my teeth. Coughing was to be avoided at all costs, because the demon swapped his soldering iron for a red-hot poker at that point. I spent a night like this, seeing every hour on the clock.

In the morning Caroline called up the second doctor who immediately referred me to hospital. Just a case of getting there. I could no longer sit in the passenger seat so lay down in the back then upon arrival walked from the car park with the alacrity of a 100-year-old. After signing in at A&E where I was referred a long wait ensued, during which I was unable to sit down. Next an assessment nurse saw me and was sensible enough to forego bottom inspections and admitted me. I have to wonder if her job is to increase efficiency or slow down the admission procedures, just to keep things within those government targets.

After a further long wait during which I stood supporting myself on the arms of two chairs I was taken into a cubical to be checked over by a junior surgical doctor. This involved her asking me numerous questions, delivering homilies about my smoking straight out of the New Labour Book of Truth, then she proceeded to part my buttocks and subsequently remove my hands from her throat. I jest, of course, but right then I wanted a pump-action shotgun beside me: “You touch this without giving me drugs and I spray your head over that wall!”

Some of the next bit comes second hand, because I can’t really remember much of it. I ended up on my side on a bed, behind A&E, Caroline departed and I was wheeled down to a ward. Despite my pleas to allow myself to sort myself out a nurse had to be helpful, then backed off when her tugging on the under sheet pulled on one buttock and I shrieked. Another nurse, aware that I wasn’t having a little joke about how much this was hurting, helped me change into a gown, confining that help to pulling off my socks and shifting my pants and joggers out of the way. Now came the wait for surgery, obviously nil-by mouth. I lay there listening to the moaning and whining all around me. The guys either side were in to have various limbs lopped off whilst those in the beds opposite had recently lost large portions of their insides. I felt a bit of a fraud, but the demon was still there with his soldering iron and I was venturing into delirium territory with the electric bed nearby sounding like rain on the roof and everything seeming a bit weird, a bit out-of-kilter.

Pain is no fun at all, but neither is the discomfort of lying in one position for hours on end so, despite this stirring the wannabe electrician demon into action, I had to move to relieve aching back, neck, buttocks and dead arms. At about 9.30 in the evening I did this again and noted that the demon must have been taking a tea break. Then I realised something was cold and wet and reached down to find a couple of slimy buttocks. Managing to shift myself I saw brown and pink plasma soaking the under sheet. I called over the nurse who changed things for me and I was actually able to stand beside the bed while this was being done. He then put down some nappies on the bed for me to lie on, and I was able to lie on my back for the first time in three days.

No surgery that evening – too busy – so I was able to eat a sandwich and have a cup of tea. I was told I would be able to have breakfast and something to drink, but nothing more afterwards because I would probably go under the knife that afternoon. Sometime after midnight I fell asleep until about six in the morning whereupon I found that someone had dumped a cupful of strawberry sauce and custard underneath me. I got rid of the soaked nappy in a surgical waste bin and grabbed another gown. When it came to being washed I used the ward shower. I ate breakfast, felt a lot better, and began to question whether surgery under general anaesthetic was a good idea now, but it was difficult to find anyone who had a clue about what was going on.

Finally one I assumed to be the consultant, with his train of juniors in tow, turned up. One of the juniors (the politically-correct anti-smoker) checked me over. She used rather more caution with my buttocks this time, which was a bit stable door. The diagnosis was that nature was taking its course and I was done there. No surgery. All I needed was a dressing on my bum and the needle taken out of my arm, which took six hours to get accomplished…

My impression: a lot of competent dedicated people running around working their butts off, along with the usual slackers you’ll find anywhere. But mainly it was an impression of disorganization, people doing the jobs they knew but phased by anything that fell outside of that, buck passing and ‘not my responsibility’. All the signs of crap management, which is odd, since under Labour the NHS is now oversupplied with managers.

I wonder what they do?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Shortlisted Again.

Here's a recent email from Petr Kotrle, the guy who translates my books into Czechoslovakian. A number of years ago The Skinner won the Salamander Award there (the picture is of the publisher collecting it), and in a subsequent award Gridlinked was shortlisted. Now it's the turn of The Line of Polity.

Dear Neal

Another year is over and we have shortlists for the Czech SF&F&H Academy Award again. You are in for best SF novel with Line of Polity, but the competition is really hard this year: Olympos by Dan Simmons (another of my translations), NeoAddix by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Songmaster by Orson Scot Card and Valhalla: The Last Day by Czech writer Frantisek Novotny.

Sci-Fi London Review

Nice review here at Sci-Fi-London.

Neal Asher has crafted a nice short book here with a simple plot and straightforward narrative that doesn't waste time getting to the action and keeps up the pace, pretty relentlessly, right to the end. But don't be fooled by the apparently simplistic facade, this book has a nice depth and opens up some arguments that, while not really explored in the pages of the novel - this is Neal Asher, after all - stay with you after you put it down.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Book Giveaway.

Here, check out fantasybookcritic where there's a Line War giveaway. There's also an interview with me to be found, which will soon, I believe, be updated.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Galactic Empires

Nice little review of Gardner Dozois's Galactic Empires here on SF Signal. And here's the bit about my story, though I thought it mean to give it three stars (I'm biased).

Neal Asher's "Owner Space" opens with a group of people on the run from (1) the Collective - the dominating conformance society from which they escaped, and (2) an alien known to be dangerous to mankind. Their only salvation is to enter the mysterious Owner Space, an area of space that is home to a rumored God-like being equally intolerant of humans and aliens. Sound confusing? It may take a little time to get a clear picture of all factions and interrelationships involved (additionally there's the Markovian society which fell to the Collective) but the conflict is actually well-imagined and intriguing. The most memorable characters are the evil Collective Doctrinaire named Shrad, who is power-drunk and evil to the bone; the Owner, an unassuming human with mind-boggling but largely unexplained powers; and the Grazen alien mother, a hapless victim to man's atrocities. Some cool elements in the story - like the mind-controlling strouds and the automaton Guards it turns people into - round out a good story.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Article 12: Not Immortal.

And another old rant and rave:


We live in a society obsessed with the idea of youth, and frightened of the plain facts of aging and death. To avoid facing up to them people will lie, behave as if those facts don’t exist, refuse to wear hearing aids or glasses, dress young, have Botox injected and wrinkles cut away. But worse than all this are those who offer up the obviously untruthful promise of eternal youth.

One look at the advertising thrown in our faces every day will illustrate this. An evening of TV adverts will give you such gems as a model who has only just managed to clear up her acne in time to sing the praises of a hypo-allergenic-polyfiller-in-wrinkle-cream. Another cream will reduce the seven signs of aging, so we can all be glad that such a simple product will protect us against incontinence, arthritis, dementia, heart failure, blindness, hearing loss and a tendency to harp on about the good old days. You can boogy down on the beach sipping a drink containing enough sugar to rot the tusks off an elephant, and somehow this will transform you into a white-toothed youth. There’s the deodorant that keeps you perpetually available to your latest boyfriend, which is probably useful if you live the active skateboarding life promoted by your latest brand of tampon.

Magazines and catalogues are as bad if not worse. See the girdle clinging to the curves of that model who has just returned from shooting an advert about a shampoo that apparently gives you an orgasm. Observe young Adonis modelling the latest truss. And read all those articles promoting foods, New Age treatments, lifestyles and internal d├ęcor that’ll keep you perpetually this side of the Styx and apparently on the underside of thirty.

The horror of all this is that it works – many people believe it. It is doubly unfortunate, therefore, that this lying ‘in spirit and in fact’ extends well beyond the mercenary and cut-throat worlds of advertising and glossy magazines.

Consider government health warnings on cigarette packets. If you smoke you can get painful, humiliating, or disfiguring diseases that can be fatal. This is all very frightening until you ask, “How many of us don’t?” We all die. Few of us are lucky enough to die in our sleep. Most of us die from some kind of lingering malady. If you drink, don’t imbibe more than twenty-one units in a week. Heavy drinking can lead to liver failure and death (unless you’re a famous footballer of course). Both of these aberrant behaviours can lead to all sorts of terrible illnesses ranging from impotence to heart failure. Again, such warnings ignore the fact that avoiding such habits does not result in endless perfect health. You are going to get sick and die anyway, and not at the age of ninety-two with your nurse bouncing up and down on your willy. But ignoring this fact is carried on through to our health service with horrible results.

This seeming inability accept the inevitability of death (which admittedly has always been a human trait) has resulted in a health service that refuses to give us an easy way out and, with increasingly poisonous treatments, prolongs the horrible process. Get yourself a painful lingering terminal illness, and you can guarantee that the NHS will extend your suffering for as long as possible. Your only way out would be to suck on the exhaust of your car but, unable to drive that you sold it years ago, or perhaps cut your wrists, if your hands didn’t shake so much. But neither are really viable while you are trapped in a hospital bed. Your dignity is irrelevant, of course. How dare you, by your very presence, prove that none of us lives forever? How dare you be old or ill? How dare you die?