Sunday, February 28, 2010

Orbus Review -- Alex Cull

Nice review here of Orbus from Alex Cull.
Ever since reading Neal Asher’s The Skinner back in 2003, I have thought that the Prador (a race of enjoyably nasty and warlike crustacean-analogues from deep space) are among some of the best SF baddies to emerge since Terry Nation invented the Daleks. Furthermore I have believed it was high time that they had a whole novel to themselves, more or less, without any danger of the planet Spatterjay’s entertainingly horrible and ruthless oceanic fauna stealing the show. Asher’s 2006 novel Prador Moon came close to accomplishing this, the one caveat being that it was all too short, but at 438 pages, Orbus hits the bull’s-eye.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eclipse -- Stephenie Meyer.

Once again an enjoyable read, but much less so now. Yeah, okay I get that she loves him and he loves her, get on with it now please. I found myself starting to skip bits near the end out of either boredom or irritation. When that starts happening the illusion created starts to break down, the critical faculties begin kicking in again and you lose that vital ‘suspension of disbelief’. So this ninety-year-old vampire is profoundly in love with a selfish brattish teenager too stupid to realise that the “but we can still be friends” line doesn’t really work on someone who wants to get her bent over doggy style. The whole toing and froing with her werewolf love interest was thoroughly wearing. It also occurs to me that perhaps Edward is not only a vampire but a pervert? This would explain many decades of always going to school when he could have said, “Really, I’m twenty – I just look young.” It also seems to me that Meyer has fallen into the ‘I made my heroes too powerful and now I’ve really got to contrive dangers to have a story’ trap. Really, much of the writing and story-telling grabs, but when you step back, you see it for what it is. The whole thing is one of those American high school flicks with a wash of supernatural to give it some glamour, all wrapped round a rather prudish romance. I’ll read the next one, but rather suspect I’ll be skipping a lot of that too.

Cargo Cult Science

Some remarks on science, pseudoscience and learning how not to fool yourself. Caltech's commencement address in 1974 from Richard P Feynman (PDF).

Now in what branches of 'science' might this approach be applicable nowadays? One specific example springs to mind but, really, the answer is 'all of them'.

Update: And in the spirit of Feynman (or should I say the bloody obvious), the Institute of Physics has come out of the closet.

These are the traits of groupthink (Janis, 1977). Where do we see them?

1. Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
2. Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group’s assumptions.
3. Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
4. Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.
5. Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”.
6. Self censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
7. Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
8. Mind guards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.

Incidentally, a 'flat-earther' is he or she who did not question the general consensus.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interesting Post Chain

I just had a look at Whatever, John Scalzi's blog which often has interesting stuff about the business of writing. I read this and was intrigued, so went over to the post by Charlie Stross. This then led me to further interesting posts. You can learn a lot here about the processes involved in getting a book into your hands.

About rejection.

Becoming an Editor


Thursday, February 25, 2010


I've been meaning to say something about this for some time. Many of you may know about Dave Langford's Ansible - you've maybe read some of his articles in various magazines. I get this newsletter by email and get filled in on the various doings in the SF world. Particularly enjoyable are 'How Others See us' in which he records the ludicrous statements of those who don't want to be accused of science fiction, and 'Thog', in which he points out some of the silly errors many fiction writers make (still waiting to be thogged). Dave Langford is an erstwhile weapons physicist, fan and fiction writer and recipient of an embarrassing number of Hugos.

Update: You can subscribe to the email newsletter or get the RSS feed up in the top lefthand corner here.


For those who have too much time on their hands.

I'm apparently: 'a laser hen', or maybe I 'share elan', whilst Caroline is a 'rascal heroine'.

Meanwhile 'A future fair for all' = 'Our fearful fat liar' who happens to be 'born dog worn'.

M is for May and Morgan


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blood Music -- Greg Bear

As expected I did very much enjoy this. I love the idea of transformations like the ones in this (telegraphed right from the start) and wasn't disappointed with them. The book went from a bit of genetic manipulation to quantum mechanics and rewriting the laws of physics, with an interesting spin on how those laws are formed. It also dealt with immortality, and I'm a sucker for that. One teensy little problem, however. This book suffers from what I'll call 'the slide rule effect'. Some of the older readers here will know exactly what I'm talking about: those old SF books with grand-scale sensawunda in which the astrogator works out the course of the superluminal starship using a slide rule - some anachronism that takes that vital 'suspension of disbelief' a step further away. All the way-out (or not particularly way-out) science in this is fine, but that a large part of the story takes place in the Twin Towers does bugger it up a bit.


It seems I don't need to write an encyclopedia of the Polity. Here's the start of a piece on the Prador over at Wikipedia:

Physical description

Prador are amphibious crustaceans with flattened pear-shaped shells with scalloped rims and a raised visual turret at the broad end that houses several pairs of red spider-like eyes, some of which are on movable stalks. Prador move about on six long legs, each terminating in a wicked spike. The rear pair of legs fall off when adolescent Prador make the transition to adults, exposing their sexual organs in the process.

Along their underside Prador have four manipulatory arms, each ending in a hand described as "a complex arrangement of hooks and fingers". These hands are highly dexterous and capable of fine manipulation, just like a human hand. It appears Prador can use all four hands to perform different tasks simultaneously, such as drawing and firing four different weapons at separate targets. Above these are the two heavy "working claws"; large crab-claw limbs that can easily cut through tough materials and crush human bones.

Prador feed with a set of dangerous mandibles, capable of grasping, cutting and chewing flesh. Prador are carnivorous, and mostly feed on decaying flesh, primarily harvested from giant mudskippers farmed on their homeworld. Adult Prador are very fond of human flesh, however, and many humans are bred just for this purpose, although by the end of the book The Skinner, this practice has begun to decline.

Prador shells are particularly tough, able to withstand impacts and small arms fire, but they seem quite vulnerable to energy weapons and heat, which can cause the shells to burst open.

And here's their entry about me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Neal Asher Video Clip 23/2/10

Here we go again.

Tulip Gardens

Tulip Gardens Holland from Neal Asher on Vimeo.

Just trying out Vimeo since You Tube is being a pain.

What Now?

So, last year I finished The Departure, second book of my last three-book contract with Macmillan and at the time due to be published this year. I immediately got on with the last book of the contract, which then had the provisional title Gabbleducks, and polished off quite a lot of it. Once I was back here in Britain, Julie Crisp (senior commissioning editor for Tor UK) told me she really liked The Departure and, since it was the first book of a new series (The Owner series), she would like to publish that series consecutively. This was a break from my usual  habit of books from a series alternated with something else i.e. the order of publication from the start with Macmillan has been: Gridlinked, The Skinner, The Line of Polity, Cowl, Brass Man, The Voyage of the Sable Keech, Polity Agent, Hilldiggers, Line War, with Prador Moon, Shadow of the Scorpion and The Gabble coming in through a route separate to my main contracts. I said okay, let's give it a try.

This now meant that I had to get Gabbleducks ready for publication this year, which I've done. It transformed somewhat in the telling and has now turned into The Technician. Julie now has that book and I'm chewing my fingernails waiting for a response on it. But this also means I've hit a bit of a hiatus. I am, effectively, a year ahead of schedule, so what do I do now?

Here are the choices I've considered: I could begin the next book in The Owner series, I could produce some short stories, I could pull that fantasy trilogy out of my files and start work on that, or I could set to work on writing a book about mine and Caroline's adventures in Crete - based on my journal entries - for which I already have the title: Cicada Scream.

I recently got an email from Jeremy Lassen at Night Shade Books in which he wondered if I might consider having a crack at something else for them: a new series, maybe a fantasy - something different to help me penetrate the American market. The fantasy, which I've always wanted to rework but have never got round to, falls into that category. So, if I set to work on that I've got a target market, though frankly I wouldn't expect difficulties selling it elsewhere.

So, right now I'm typing into my computer all my Crete journal entries in preparation for writing Cicada Scream. This will be a project I'll work on with no finish date in mind. This evening I'll print up the first book of the fantasy, The Staff of Sorrows, read it through and begin working on it with a pencil. More needs to be done than tidying up the English. The whole thing needs to lose its hackneyed fantasy clothing and there's some big structural changes that need to be made too.

 These I'll work on until the time comes for me to edit The Technician. After that I'm not sure how I'll proceed, just a case of wait and see.

You see, I can make plans.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who Reads My Books? Kirby Ubben.

Recently you posted on your blog prior to 1999 you were shoveling shit. well, as fate would have it, same here.

I grew up on a farm in the central US, in the state of Iowa. Shoveling shit was considered one of the 'good jobs.' That's not true, it's not considered good, just available. I did however spend my formative years shoveling the proverbial and quite literal shit.

I didn't fancy sports much, and living in the country, socializing wasn't readily available, so it was books, and largely, those were fantasy and sci/fi. At 18 years of age, in the year of 1993, I moved to Seattle, and happened on a contract job working at Microsoft's Redmond Campus, and my tastes in leisure time literature turned more strongly science/fiction: William Gibson, Bruce Stirling, Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut.

Over the years, as I moved about, as I went to university and continued the IT career, I always came back to sci/fi. I'd jaunt off on Japanese history, Japanese historical fiction, a good mystery series, but sci/fi has remained my baseline.

Currently (speaking of Dirty Jobs) I work as the in-house systems engineer, defacto IT director, for a small company back here in Iowa, which has been featured on Dirty Jobs. Remember the chicken sexing episode? Squeezing poop from chickens to determine gender? Yup, that's us: McMurray Hatchery.

It's all about poop here in Iowa.

I would guess about 2004, I picked up a copy of a book by a fellow I hadn't read before, one Mr. Neal Asher, on recommendation from a friend in Seattle: Gridlinked.


I absolutely fell in love with it; the world it portrayed, the characters, both protagonist and villain equally compelling... I registered and have been using it for vanity email since.

Next came the epic hunt for all things Asher; minor collector nerd OCD happily at work. The pinnacle of my Asher collection, in my mind, is the copy of Mason's Rats, the paper pamphlet original, closely followed by the US hardcover first edition of Gridlinked, amusingly signed by Mr. Asher himself.

Just another farm boy turned deep Linux nerd obsessed with British sci/fi and the epitome of said genre, Neal Asher.

Increase fanboy count by one, please.


Sunday, February 21, 2010


Here's one of them there UFOs:


Dexter Ominbus -- Jeff Lindsay

The language of the first page of this hauled me up, but I persevered and was soon in territory I recognized from the excellent TV series. I was a bit dubious about the somewhat camp depiction of Dexter and the emphasis on his 'Dark Passenger' which only kicked in in the TV series when he was pretending to have a drugs habit, both as an alibi with Rita and a way to put Doakes off the scent. I really enjoyed the first two books of this, noting the differences and being quite happy with them - there were quite simply things that happened in this only suitable an X classification and would have cut down on the success of the TV series. The last book I hated. Lindsay took Dexter's 'Dark Passenger' into supernatural territory, Dexter himself became a soppy ineffectual mess, and I felt it was wrong wrong wrong.

Thing is, whilst there were a couple of really enjoyable books here, and the idea of Dexter is all down to Lindsay, I find the TV series a lot better. I think that the TV version nailed the essence of it, of Dexter, which was in the first two books, and definitely not in the last one. You may think it odd me feeling that straying into fantastical territory was the wrong thing to do here, if you do, then go read my post about UFOs again.

Book Haul

Real highstreet book shops still have their appeal, especially when you know you want something, but are not sure what. The stack of books beside my bed was sadly lacking in decent SF so I wandered into Waterstones in Chelmsford to see what I could find. After signing their stock of my books, I started browsing, and was glad I did. Remembering authors I have enjoyed, picking up and handling books and reading the cover blurbs certainly works. I discovered quite a few that were in the 'I must get that' category, but then forgot to get. Here's my haul:

Alastair Reynolds produces few duds, which means I'll always buy his next book, and I've heard good things about this one.

Always loved Greg Egan's stuff, but it's sadly lacking in my collection. Reading the first bit of the blurb 'A million years from now...' was quite enough.

Greg Bear is another writer I've always liked, and I looked up this one when I found it on the Salamander Award shortlist with The Skinner, and thought then that I really should buy it.

I very much enjoyed Eric Brown's stories in Interzone, many years ago, and it's quite daft that I've never read one of his books. And reading the blurb of this it looks like this is an oversight I'm going to enjoy correcting.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thing You Need to Know.

Karl Popper on falsifiability:

A property of any proposition for which it is possible to specify a set of circumstances the occurrence of which would demonstrate that the proposition is false. Falsifiability is the crucial feature of scientific hypotheses: beliefs that can never be tested against the empirical evidence are dogmatic.

Bertrand Russell’s teapot:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

If there is no way of proving something wrong, it’s not science. And if you can’t prove something wrong, that doesn’t make it right. Can you think of prime fat contemporary examples of both of these? I certainly can.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Beware the Bottom Probes.

I remember, before I was taken on by Macmillan, getting cornered at a house party by a woman who, upon hearing that I wrote SF, wanted to talk to me about UFOs. I remember, when I was in my twenties, seeing something up in the sky out the back of my parent’s house: a sphere, silver on top and black underneath which, when I saw it, shot off at great speed. But now, I need to let you in on a secret: I don’t believe we have been visited by aliens.

I don’t believe flying saucers are playing peek-a-boo with airliners or having races with Airforce jets. I reckon that object I saw was a weather balloon caught in a high wind, or maybe, just maybe, it was some sort of military drone. I don’t believe a spaceship crashed at Area 57 and that the US military has some bug-eyed monsters on ice. I don’t believe the greys, with a technology capable of propelling themselves across a distance of a minimum of four light years, have come here to stick probes up the bottom of an Arkansas yokel.

You see, I’m a science fiction writer, which means I don’t buy into crap. I buy into logic, emphiricism. Crystals don’t heal, homeopathy is bunk, the only way anyone can predict the future by the stars is if that person sees a monster meteorite on a collision course with Earth. Faith is not proof; there is no invisible friend in the sky. Any theory that doesn’t adhere to Popper’s dictum is not a theory. A tin-foil hat will not stop the mind control rays from Alpha Centauri and walking under a ladder is only unlucky if someone drops a pot of paint on your head.

And these will maybe contain some interesting, rare or even unknown natural phenomena. They will contain delusions, sad attempts at attention seeking, lies, and maybe some truths about just how suggestible is the human mind. Sorry and all that.

Who Reads My Books? Barry Arrowsmith

Since Barry hasn't been able to supply a picture of himself, I've found one for him.

Wotcher, Neal.

My name is Barry Arrowsmith and I'm a Science Fiction addict.
How did I sink to this degraded state?
It all started so innocently....

Imagine.... it's the late 1940s and a small boy has his ear glued to to a hissing, crackly radio. For what? For Dan Dare on Radio Luxembourg of course.

That was me, and it was the start of a life-long love, bordering on obsession, with SF. The obsession got fed too, what with beeb radio pulling in massive audiences with 'Day of the Triffids' and 'Journey into Space', and when TV started becoming the broadcast medium of choice, with 'Quatermass'. All quality stuff, but then there was a bit of a gap until 1963 and 'Dr Who'. How to satisfy the cravings?

Well, there were the Saturday morning matinees at the local flea-pit, the 'tanner rush' as it was known, for the weekly dose of Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon. You could see the wires holding the model space-ships up, and the smoke from the rocket-ship engines always rose vertically, even in the depths of space, but who the hell cared?
Next Monday in the playground you too could be a Clayman.

Next step, comics. The Eagle (more Dan Dare) and then there were those oh so rare and coveted imports from the US. Then books. Those started with a Christmas present - 'Death of Metal' by Donald Suddaby (wish I still had it, but it fell apart decades ago). With strictly limited pocket-money real hardbacked books were beyond my means, but at the local market there was a stall that sold the trashiest second- hand SF paperbacks you ever did see. I loved it. Covers plastered with panicking girls in brass brassieres and everybody wearing goldfish bowls. The local library also helped fill the gaps with (among others) those wonderful old Bleiler & Dickty short story collections. Grabbed every one I could as soon as it appeared on the shelves, 'cos with a bit of luck there might be an Eric Frank Russell story in there.

Of course as you age and cash isn't so tight, discrimination kicks in. (It's either that or the fact that brass brassieres on covers went out of fashion, though the reaction to Carrie Fisher as a chained Princess Leia showed that there's an eager market for this stuff out there. Yummy!) So, it was time to switch to Penguin SF, the Gollancz SF yellow-jackets and the more sophisticated stuff.

Then in 1981 I inadvertently went sort-of cold turkey on SF. Working out in Saudi for 9 years, and back then there was no SF available out there. That's not why I went of course, but it was one of the consequences. Worse, I'd cleared my bookcases of all fiction prior to storage for the rest before I went. Wish I hadn't. Impossible to replace some of those books, at least for a price I can afford.

Back home in 1990, the cravings still persist, and 20 minutes away is a place of pilgrimage - Rog Peyton's Andromeda bookshop. Oh, bliss. All those lovely imports - Vernor Vinge, David Weber, Greg Bear, Gibson, plus the new generation of UK authors when they came along - Reynolds, Stross, Morgan, Stephenson and that Asher feller. Shelves looking healthy again now, about 1500 SF titles, half of them hardback. So I'm main-lining again.

One thing, when you accumulate a lot of books you need to add them onto your contents insurance. Replacement would be bloody expensive, just work it out. But - and this is the good bit - you'll probably be asked to value them (they like titles worth over about £50 to be listed) and that's when you find that a volume you bought for the cover price 20 years ago is now worth a bomb. How nice. Gives you a really fine glow. Signed, dated 1st/1st 'Revelation Space'? signed 1st/1st 'Altered Carbon'? 1st/1st Touchstone ed. of 'The Prestige'? Add a few more and your bookshelves are more valuable than your furnishings. Not just the new books you bought, either. Try pricing a VG+/VG+ Compton Russell hardback of Niven's 'Protector', it's slightly more than the 69p I paid in Oxfam. Rarer than hen's teeth; rarer even than 'Mason's Rats'. Do I have a copy of 'Rats'? Erm... yes, got one from an Amazon re-seller last month. Cost me a tenner - but what the hell, it's only money.

No photos, I'm afraid. As a tech fan I'm a disgrace. No camera, no mobile phone, not even a TV. I spend so much time lost in books, you see.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

District 9

So I finally got round to watching District 9 last night. I did enjoy it, but with reservations. Yes, the way of presenting the story with news clips, segments from interviews and CCTV shots was interesting, but jarring at first – took a little getting used to. The aliens themselves were okay, but really, I’ve yet to see truly alien aliens anywhere other than the film of that name (and even they were a bit too anthropomorphic).

Some usual Hollywood tropes and issues here. Why did the alien spaceship choose to park over Johannesburg? Because characters speaking with an Afrikaans accent is sure to raise the spectre of racism, which was rather unsubtle. Admittedly Blomkamp was brave giving the ‘Nigerians’ such a bad guy role. And of course, the arch bad guys role has to be taken by the big corporation. Now where have I seen that before? Oh yeah, Avatar, all the Alien films, Blade Runner, Terminator (initially) – in fact, how often is it not the big evil corporation that’s ultimately to blame?

We had here a spin on the idea of giving beads to the natives in exchange for something more valuable, but that the beads were cans of cat-food and the natives were aliens just transported from a starship I found plain silly. Why were they starving? Here we have a race capable of zipping across the light-years in their starship, their whole technology based on biotech, yet they are incapable of feeding themselves?

I have to wonder how these aliens, starving and dying aboard their spaceship, were transported to the ground, without anyone noticing a large number of big fuck-off Men in Black guns, along with an enormous alien military exoskeleton. I also have to wonder why the alien spaceship, hanging in the sky on some sort of antigravity and empty of the prawns themselves, wasn’t crawling with reverse engineering experts, scientists, in fact some massive research effort. And I also have to wonder why the shuttle dropped to the ground and was concealed; why it didn’t stay where it was. Starvation again? So what were the father and son prawn going to eat during their at least a year and half journey back home? Maybe a scene was cut showing the shuttle packed with cans of cat food.     

Suffice to say that we have some great scenes here – the action scenes are particularly good – but the whole, if you just think about it for a little while, doesn’t stand up to inspection.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Technician.

Okay, I've gone and done it now - I've emailed The Technician to Macmillan. There is a point I often reach when checking through and editing where I wonder if I'm beginning to make changes simply because I'm bored with reading it for the nth time. I know that there will be mistakes in the book that I've missed, but finding them becomes an increasingly difficult chore as I read the words that are in my head, rather than the ones on the screen.

Time to sit back now, take a breath, and start looking at the the next one.

Incidentally, more questions for the next video clip please, but no more: "When are we going to see so and so again?" or "What's next?" I've already covered that The Technician comes out next August, The Departure comes out the year after and meanwhile I'll be writing the series of books that come after the latter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Neal Asher video Clip 15/2/10

I thought this was going to be crap, but it's come across more natural, probably because I just read the questions and answered off the cuff - no notes or answers written down.

The Technician.

I've just written a synopsis of the book, which always helps to get it clearer in my mind and enables me to identify any faults in the plotting. My usual move at this point would be to carry on reading it through, back and forth, editing, until sick of it, then put it to one side and get on with something else. I would then print it out a month or two later and cast a fresher eye over it. Also, reading from a typescript rather than a screen also enables me to pick up on any problems. However, this is due to be published in August, so I need to send it to Macmillan soon. The fresh eye re-read will have to wait until after scary pencil time.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Moon -- Stephenie Meyer

I have my fingers in my ears ready for the howls of derision. Very much enjoyed this book and hope she can keep the story telling and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the series - I've got Eclipse and I'll get the one after when it's out in paperback. These books are also very successful and selling well so I want to know why. Apart from their targeted demographic, they have exactly the same quality as the Harry Potter books, which I also enjoyed: transparency. The author isn't getting in the way of the story. Of course these won't make it to many people's top tens - I don't mean the 'what I really enjoyed reading' top tens, but the 'what I want people to think I enjoy reading' top tens. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who Reads My Books? Paul Schofield.

Hi, my name’s Paul Schofield and I’m 46. I’ve been  married, to Gill, for the past 20 years. I’ve lived on the Fylde Coast in Lancashire for all my life. We have no kids. We do have three boisterous cats; two Siamese and a tabby.

We love America and spend as much time there as we can. New York and Vegas are our current favourites. I’ve enclosed a picture of the wife taken in Quark’s Bar in the Hilton Las Vegas at The Experience Tour. He did offer me 3 bars of gold pressed latinum for her, but how could I accept? Have you seen the price of gold these days? Doh!

I’ve been a big fan of Sci-Fi since reading the Day of The Triffids and The Tripods at school. I’m a big fan of Arthur C Clarke, Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton and Greg Bear, among many others.

I work for Jobcentre Plus, in a Contact Centre, in Blackpool. It was once the home of ERNIE, the Premium Bonds number generator. I’ve worked for The Man for the last 29 years, and probably will for the next 29 too. It pays the bills...and that’s really all I can say about it. God that’s depressing!

Last March I had a second heart attack and spent 3 months at home recovering. I discovered Neal’s book Gridlinked on Amazon one day, ordered it and couldn’t put it down. I quickly ordered the other Cormac books in the series and they got me through my rehabilitation, and saved me from daytime TV!



Thursday, February 11, 2010

Birthday Cards

The middle one from Caroline, who certainly knows my taste!

Good Morning Midnight -- Reginald Hill

Finding less and less in the SF world that floats my boat, I'm reading more of this sort of stuff. Very enjoyable, enough twists, turns and kinks to satisfy even me. Dalziel in this is very much like he's portrayed by Warren Clark, but Pascoe is nothing like the moody and taciturn version played by Colin Buchanan. Also noticeable that Pascoe is not divorced from Ellie in this, book twenty-one of the series. Now why did they have to do that in the TV version? Are we not sufficiently engaged unless one of the lead cops has a miserable home life? 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Technician

Here's the cover for The Technician:

Who Reads My Books? Caleb Young.

Here is my Bio

I'm 29 years old, grew up on a Cattle Ranch in South Texas.  I attended Texas A&M University.  I've read all my life, started with Jurassic Park, Congo type novels around 2-3rd grade.  Kept reading all the time.  I got addicted to SCI FI in college when I found a little resale book shop that had two complete walls dedicated to SCI FI, I started reading every work done by Sir Arthur C Clark, devoured his works.  I was averaging about one novel every two days.  Once I graduated I worked and still read on and off over the next few years.  Eventually I went to work in the Oil Field, I work on the big platforms that are out in the Gulf of Mexico drilling for oil.  Well when you get off of work, you have a lot of time to read, no grass to mow, no garden to tend, so I read, and read and read, I would average 15 books in a 21 day period.  Well when the world changing Hurricane Katrina came into the gulf and set its sites on New Orleans, our rig was evacuated, during the evacuation we spent 5 days in a hotel with no power, I had run out of books, so I found a little book store and picked up Peter F Hamilton's "Fallen Dragon" and thats how I found the "Space Opera" Genre.  While searching for his books on Amazon UK, it recommended some of your books, I started with Gridlinked, and then Line of Polity, well while waiting for my next few Asher's i have been reading the Max Brook's fiction "World War Z".  I have all of your Cormac novels, and Brass man is in queue after my current read of "Zombie Survival Guide".  I love you style of writing, it reminds me of Louis Lamour, he wrote westerns here in the states.  Well thats my reading history, heres my bio stuff.  I have a wife who reads as much as I do, and love video games, a 2.5 year old daughter who loves to be read to.  I'm working my way through the compilation of ACC short stories and she really enjoys them.  I have two dogs a Chihuahua that reminds me of Shuriken, and a laborador mix.  Please find attached some pictures of myself.  I will send one more email tommorrow with a picture of my Asher Books lined up.  Thanks for being a down to earth guy.


Caleb Young

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Alien Life

I just read an interesting article in the Sunday Mail's Review and decided to do a little search on it over the Internet. Michael Brooks (a consultant at New Scientist) is having his book '13 Things That Don't Make Sense' published this February. The first of those things is (both can be found here):

NASA scientists found evidence for life on Mars. Then they changed their minds
On July 20, 1976, the Viking landers scooped up some Martian soil and mixed it with radioactive nutrients. The mission's scientists all agreed that if radioactive methane was released from the soil, something must be eating the nutrients – and there must be life on Mars. The experiment gave a positive result, but NASA denied an official detection of Martian life. Today, there is even more evidence that something is creating methane on Mars. Is it life? The Viking experiment suggests it was. Martin Rees, England’s astronomer royal, calls the search for extraterrestrial life the most important scientific endeavour of our time. But have we already found it? 

Apparently, the reason they changed their minds was due to readings from another instrument on the Viking mission that searched for traces of carbon in the Martian soil and found none. The verdict about life remains unchanged despite it being known that the second instrument couldn't even detect large quantities of carbon here on Earth. It was a dud, but as we are learning every day now, scientists protecting their backsides quickly lose any acquaintance with the truth.

The next 'thing' was this:  

Has ET already been in touch?
It was an electromagnetic pulse that came from the direction of the Sagittarius constellation. It lasted 37 seconds and had exactly the characteristics predicted for an alien signal. Maybe that’s why, on 15 August 1977 it caused astronomer Jerry Ehman to scrawl "Wow!" on the printout from Big Ear, Ohio State University's radio telescope in Delaware. The nearest star in that direction is 220 light years away. If that really is where is came from, it would have had to be a pretty powerful astronomical event - or an advanced alien civilisation using an astonishingly large and powerful transmitter. More than 30 years later, its origin remains a mystery.

After much consideration, wondering what method aliens would use to attract attention, researchers decided that a radio signal at precisely 1,420 MHz - the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe - would be the best choice. That's precisely what they got. It also came from an area of space completely devoid of stars, maybe from a spaceship?

What do you think about this? The easiest thing to do is err on the side of doubt. I mean, lakes of methane on Titan aren't immediately pointed at as evidence of life there. And frankly, that signal could have come from Earth and been bounced back by some phenomena much more likely than a passing alien spaceship.

Friday, February 05, 2010


Here's the cover for Ian Whates upcoming 'Conflicts' anthology:

Just to notify you that, as of late yesterday, the anthology has its own page on the NewCon Press website and is available for prepurchase (indeed, the first copy sold this morning!)
The eagle-eyed among you may note a small error in that the 'buy' button claims both editions are 'signed and limited' whereas only the hardback will be (signing sheets are doing the rounds at this moment).  The webmaster has been notified and that should be corrected soon.

-- Ian.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

L is for Lee and LeGuin.


Terry Pratchett's Dimbleby Lecture.

Here's the BBC Iplayer link to that Dimbleby Lecture mentioned:

Shaking Hands With Death.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Anyone Out There?

Regarding the 'Who Reads My Books?' posts I've been putting up on here. I've got one left to post and haven't seen any more. How about more from the men and women out there, like those shown in Mike Rowe's 'Dirty Jobs',  who tighten up the nuts and bolts that keep our civilization running? I'm not saying the previous ones are abnormal, but maybe some are a little intimidating to those who, say, simply work on a production line and enjoy SFF. I'd like to hear from you people - don't kid yourselves that you're not interesting. And don't forget, prior to 1999 I was shovelling shit too.

Temperance Month Over

So, for the health of our livers, Caroline and I spent this January drinking tea, coffee, juices and cordial only. This was after what the bansturbators in the BMA and nanny government would describe as excessive drinking, mainly because they made up the unit limits back in the 80s and have never bothered to change them.

Stopping drinking wasn't a problem, in fact, we looked forwards to it, almost as if bored with it. We didn't get any cravings and neither of us concealed any bottles of Vodka anywhere. The noticeable effect was a lack of hangovers and a tendency to sleep throughout the night, not wake up in the early hours. How it affected our health otherwise I don't know - I had a cold throughout most of January so couldn't really tell.

Last night we cracked a bottle of red wine and shared it. Did I really enjoy it having been abstinent for so long? Not really. It seemed watery, tea would have been better, and we finished the bottle more as a matter of form than because we were relishing it. I don't think I'm going to bother with it much now. I'll have a drink on my birthday tomorrow, and I'll toast my brother at his wake on the 8th. Of course I rather think that the chilled carafe of wine down by our local beach on Crete is going to be a different matter...

Who Reads My Books? Bob Lock.

Hi, my name’s Bob Lock and I’m an alcoholic... oh wait, wrong forum!
Umm... hi, my name’s Bob Lock and I’m an Asherholic...

I first stumbled onto SF in the mid 60s when I was fifteen and left school to work as an office boy in Wm.Hancock & Sons in Swansea, a brewery. One of the guys in the office was an avid fan and he loaned me a copy of Alfred Bester’s ‘The Stars My Destination’ I read it in one go, and so, a new SF fan was born.
I worked for the brewery until meeting my wife Anna, who is Italian, and once married we decided to go over to Italy and try and make a life for ourselves there. I taught English as a second language in two private schools and then was offered a job by a large foundry as an assistant to the director, translator and general dog’s body. About four years later, with all our savings spent, we decided to return to the UK (holidaying in Italy is vastly different from trying to make a living out there with a wife and two kids!) Back in the UK I managed to return to the brewery (which was now Bass) and worked my way up to technician in both the beer and soft drinks side.
I retired early some years ago and started writing in earnest (in English would have been better, but whatcha gonna do?) Some of my short stories were taken up by a few online e-zines. A couple of text adventure games I wrote were fairly successful and finally I had a short of mine published in a horror anthology called Cold Cuts which was edited and put together by Steve Lockley and Paul Lewis, two Welsh writers who’ve had numerous works published including some Dr Who stuff.
In 2007 my debut dark SF/F/Horror novel ‘Flames of Herakleitos’ was published by Screamingdreams Publishing and I was fortunate enough to have Neal read a copy and he allowed me to use some of his comments on the back cover (I only used the ones where he praised the story and left out the rest...)
2008 saw a short of mine in Nemonymous 8 – Cone Zero, called The Cone Zero Ultimatum, receive a lot of praise and I have to admit it’s one of my favourite stories.
2009 I was also published in Nemomymous 9 – Cern Zoo (I can’t say which story is mine yet as all Nemomymous authors remain anonymous until the next edition is released.) This is a ground-breaking idea put into practise by the publisher D.F.Lewis (who is also well known for his own novels and stories)
2009 also saw a SF novella of mine called A Cloud Of Madness published and this is available through Amazon.Com only, at the moment.
2009 I surprised myself by writing a zombie novella called ‘They Feed On Flesh’ for the NaNoWriMo competition to write 50,000 + words in a month. I’m a very slow writer so 50,893 words in 30 days is a big deal for me!
2010 will see the publication of an Urban Fantasy novella of mine by Screamingdreams and that will be called ‘The Empathy Effect’
2010 I hope to finish the sequel to ‘Flames of Herakleitos’ (working on it now) and that will be called ‘They Made Monsters.’
Neal’s writing ticks all the boxes for me, even his blog is a delight to read and I don’t think any fan could find a more helpful and accessible writer than him.
And , that’s all folks!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Terry Pratchett

Anybody watch the Dimbleby lecture from Terry Pratchett 'Shaking Hands with Death'? Or rather the Pratchett lecture delivered by Tony Robinson because this brilliant and wise writer is too buggered up by Alzheimers to deliver something like that. Here's a bit about it, but I'm sure you'll be able to find more if you do a search. He's feels the terminally ill should be allowed to kill themselves, that the means should be made available - assisted by medical practitioners if necessary - and I thoroughly agree. The government doesn't own our bodies (though of course it would like to) and it is our choice to make. In fact I've always agreed with this, but it's even more plain to me after seeing both my father and my brother on their death beds. I want the option Pratchett is after for himself: sitting in a chair in his garden with a glass of brandy and exit potion of choice. No damned way do I want to end up dribbling and pissing my pyjamas in some stinking old people's home, or tubed up in a hospital with those supposedly looking after me afraid to give me enough painkillers for fear of being accused of killing me. In fact that will not happen to me; I intend to ensure it won't happen.

What do you think?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ebook Thoughts.

I’m just thinking about this; throwing a few ideas about. I don’t know, so don’t assume I really know what I’m talking about, though I’m pretty sure that many in the industry don’t know what’s going to happen either.

I’ve been reading up on this row between Macmillan and Amazon about ebooks, but now want to step back and consider what it all means. The ebook market is going to grow, every time someone buys a Kindle or an Ipad or any other the other readers out there, that’s a dead tree customer gone. This is not like the fight between Betamax and VHS, since with them the information, the entertainment, was a physical product that wasn’t interchangeable. The makers of these readers will try (using stuff like DRM), initially, to corner the market for their e-reader, but it is a losing battle. The more restrictions put on ebooks sold or what e-readers will accept, the more piracy and the more likely people will buy product with less restrictions. By making restrictions publishers and e-book manufacturers will lose market share. The eventual winners will be the e-readers that will accept any ebook and the ebooks that can be loaded to any e-reader. Piracy will be easy and rife. Publishers will have to accept that to sell ebooks they’ll need to reduce the price, because high prices will push customers towards piracy. So what does all this mean to me, the writer?

Things are going to change, and drastically. The market for paper books will continue to survive, hopefully until I’ve shuffled off my mortal coil, but it’s going to get smaller and smaller. Hopefully people will still want to read my books. This is what I must think. Books as we know them are just the medium through which the story I tell goes from my mind to yours. Even if that medium changes, I have to presume that you still want that story.

I wonder about the shape of a future market. Maybe the book publisher as we know it is going to die. Maybe a writer will publish his book on the Internet, without much in the way of middlemen, incidentally taking a larger cut of the cover price than present paltry royalties, which will be necessary to cover the losses through piracy. After a book has sold well on the Internet, has been proven as a product, that’s where the dead tree publishers step in. People will read many ebooks, and some they will decide are keepers.


Another scenario I see is the end of writers being able to make a living through writing books. If the main source of books is the Internet, without the middle men, where is the guarantee of quality? How is anyone going to be able to sort the wheat from the truckloads of chaff? A dead tree book you pick up in a bookshop has gone through a process, the first part being people in the publishing industry looking at the typescript and deciding they are prepared to risk spending thousands of pounds to get that book into print. (For those who say that publishers produce a lot of crap, let me give you a wake-up call: for every Daniel Steel or Jeffrey Archer book you sneer at, please remember that the publisher has rejected skiploads of the most appalling drivel you can imagine.) There’s your guarantee.

Perhaps the guarantee will be simply through sales, electronic bestseller lists, trusted reviewing. Even publishers admit that word-of-mouth is the best advertising available and, once the middlemen are out of the way, this would be the ultimate in word-of-mouth. Let’s face it, despite the ‘is this going to make us money guarantee’ publishers still quite often get it very wrong. How many publishers rejected the Harry Potter books?

What do you think?