Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Piracy

What was it, a few weeks ago I was talking about ebooks, the dangers, whatever? Of course the Internet world moves really fast and now, already, it seems someone is pirating my books. For obvious reasons I won't make a link to the site concerned. Nice hey. You spend twenty years banging your head against a wall to learn your trade and finally get your book published, you work non-stop to build a career, then some prick thinks it's quite fine to obtain a copy of your work and give it away. Hey, by all means lend a book to someone, but don't set up a fucking website to give it away to hundreds of people you don't even know! I guess the person doing this feels he is being altruistic, that he's giving a service (which in this case he wants donations for). I feel just like I always feel when someone rips me off; steals my property from me.

Five Book Contract

Damn me, my publisher didn’t change the locks when I popped outside for a cigarette. After four contracts for three books, plus a collection of short stories and two extras first published in America, over a million and a half words having passed under editorial pencils, they’re still not fed up with me. Even after having to tolerate a slightly drunk author wandering around Macmillan offices, snaffling any book that isn’t nailed down and secreting it in a Tesco carrier bag, they’re still prepared to put up with me. Wow!

Now, whilst progressively renewing my covers (using those superb Jon Sullivan pictures), Tor Macmillan have given me a five book contract, which I’ve signed. My last contract underwent a slight redesign with the last two books being swapped around so that The Departure, a novel based on short stories that appeared in my collection The Engineer ReConditioned, will be published last rather than second to last. This book will be the first of the ‘Owner Sequence’ comprising two further books titled Zero Point and Jupiter War. After that I’m signed up for three as yet to be named books, so I’ll certainly be writing books for Macmillan for some years to come.

I see the future now. New employees at Macmillan will express momentary bafflement and surprise, “Neal Asher? I thought he was dead?” whereupon oldtimers will point nervously to a big iron-studded oak door, “We keep him in there”. Neophyte editors will be ushered through that door, “Keep to the right. Do not touch or approach the glass. You pass him nothing but soft paper…” Meanwhile, those working in book shops will check their latest delivery and dubiously eye the sagging ‘A’ shelf. A Hogwarts trained shelf-stacker will remove the books from their box with iron tongues, whilst a second employee affixes the chains.

Thanks all at Macmillan, it’s great working with you.

If anyone has any press queries, please email cdothealyatmacmillandotcodotuk 

Science Fiction Covers

And now to science fiction. Rather than try to sort this lot out, I'll leave them to speak for themselves, bearing in mind that these are responses to the question 'What sort of cover puts you off an SF book?':

Jesper Krogsgaard: Ewoks. Cute and fuzzy. Using conventional pictures doesn't provide enough mystery unless you twist it. Again, like with fantasy, I like it gritty, dark and dangerous.

Colin Strawbridge: I think the typefaces used are more important than pictures; Gollancz have managed pretty well all these years without resorting to lurid graphics.One thing i find especially disconcerting is when they put celebrity reviewers names in much larger print than the actual author.

Andy Plumbly: Something that seems totally irrelevant to sci-fi. Like an apple. I'm quite happy with a spaceship or planet. Simple mind I guess.

Colin Strawbridge: I love how what on initial inspection seems like a random picture eventually starts to make sense as one gets further into the book.

Peter Nugent: Something original. If it's the bog standard hero with a smoking gun on an alien landscape that looks suspiciously like a desert i'm usually not interested.

Bob Lock: Squids in spacesuits...

Stuart McMillan: Complicated scenes and complicated fonts. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS) principles must apply.

Jon Bodan: On further reflection, I think that if you had the book name in the Tron font, and your name in the mid-80s digital font, it would be ace. Lol

Roger Fourt: Winners: M M Smith, Jeff Noon, Asher (I wouldn't lie)
Losers: Hamilton, Reynolds, Morgan.
Simple premise: avoid badly painted unfeasibly large spaceships.

Susan Hopkins Carpenter: I agree with Stuart, simple generally works best for me too. What puts me off is something too esoteric, I just know I'm going to be wading through pretentions claptrap.
Zeon D V Kitchiner: Anything with gold embossed lettering and roses.

Dave Wells: I find it's normally something on the cover that catches my eye which then prompts me to read the synopsis etc rather than anything specific putting me off. Course if it has ASHER on it then I pick it up just to have a look even though I've already got all of your books :)

Chuck McKenzie: Cartoony spaceships.

Owen Roberts: Depictions of characters.


Here's a little note from Petr Kotrle my Czech tranlator:

Before you leave for your summer home again, I’d like to tell you that your book was shortlisted for the Czech SF&F&H Academy Award again, this time The Voyage of the Sable Keech (The other titles in SF are David Marusek: Counting Heads, Ian McDonald: River of Gods, China Miéville: The City & the City, Vladimir Sorokin: Day of the Oprichnik).

The Skinner won this award a while back and Gridlinked was shortlisted the following year. The picture here is the boss of the Czech publisher collecting the first.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gridlinked Film.

And the last post reminds me of this, unearthed from deep in this blog where posts are fossilizing, I was an angrier man, the world had less shades of grey, ad nauseum...

Cameron Dadd is an eighteen-year-old freelance graphic designer who lives in the most isolated city on our planet. He does have a small collection, but it's as yet unavailable online, however, there's Leviathan here: which, inspired by Cameron's work, was created by a good friend of his called Carlo - looks like something Dragon put together!

(Of course Cameron is no longer 18, and who knows if this website is still current)

A Couple of Greats

I don't know whether I've mentioned this before, but Frederick Pohl has a blog, as does Jerry Pournelle.

Poster Competition

Phil Edwards over at Live for Films has a little competition running (from which I swiped the picture here):

Just wondering if you could possibly mention the Robocop Poster Redesign Challenge I set up. There have already been a few cool posters.
And bearing in mind art competitions, don't forget the competition to produce artwork based on my stuff -- you'll find it through the Subminds link down on the right-hand side here.


I am getting seriously fucked-off with these animated adverts for things like Sun Bingo, O2 and Orange - usually sitting in the sidebar or in a banner. Every damned website I go onto where these things appear slows me down to a crawl. Half the time I have to just shut that website off and find what I wanted to move onto with a search. Bloody things.

The Hurt Locker.

Well, we watched the award winning Hurt Locker last night and I have to say that it was ... crap. It seemed as if a message was trying to be imparted here but it got lost in the confusion (exacerbated by wobbly camera syndrome) and resulted in the cliche 'war is hell'. I had no idea of basic stuff like who was the commanding officer, who was being too reckless and who too timid, and the bit about a kid being killed was lost on me. There was no real plot, just a series of Hollywood tropes, scenes that were supposed to be deep but turned out to be puddles. It was a mess, frankly. Why did it win? As ever with any award: politics. If you want to watch a good film in this sort of genre, go buy Black Hawk Down. Don't waste your money on this.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fantasy Covers

Here’s a little summation of just a few opinions about fantasy covers. Some hardened SF readers simply don’t want to know, an opinion summed up by Roger Fourt: Anyone wielding shiny sacred weapons, multiple planets/moons in the background, improbable waterfalls, ludicrous cities perched atop unscalable peaks. In fact, fantasy covers are generally off-putting, along with their trite, largely write-by-numbers storylines and nerdy pubescant D&D followers. Gives SF a bad rap by association.

Those that do want to know object to depictions that bear either little relation to what the books contains, or are, frankly, embarrassing. On covers Bob Lock doesn’t like fairies, or the WOT series as all the characters seem not to scale. They look as if they are riding Shetland ponies, nothing like how I imagined them from their descriptions, whilst Stuart McMillan opines, heaving bosoms and demure damsels keep my wallet *in* my pocket. Saying that, great chested men with giant weapons are equally a turn-off. Andy Plumbly and Chuck MacKenzie respectively don’t like the typical bright colours and a generic character on the front and 'same old' sword & sandals designs (think the 'Gor' books).

And then Andi Marment and Chuck lean towards fantasy down and dirty like weaveworld or imagica, none of that wheel of time bobbins or fantasy books (athough I read very little fantasy) with cities on the cover, but that's largely due to having read brilliant 'city' fantasies by China Mieville and Alan Campbell.

So what can be learned from all this? What some like and dislike about a cover is usually informed by their opinion of what is inside the book. In the end, making an exception of those embarrassed about their ‘guilty pleasure’, the truer the cover is to the book’s contents the better. But then we all knew that anyway.

Of course, the sample of opinions here doesn't mean a lot. What would all those 10 to 18 year old boys think of the John Norman cover here? I certainly still like the lurid covers on some of my books and, had I avoided such covers, my reading, and enjoyable reading, throughout my life would have been cut down by about 80%.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Some Crap Covers

Here's a couple courtesy of Vaude and Stu Mac.
(I can see this one running)

Which Cover?

Here’s a couple of question that have come up on Twitter: what kind of cover puts you off a fantasy or science fiction book? I also wonder about the reverse: in both genres, what kind of cover catches your eye and makes you turn the book over to take a look at the blurb, or maybe read a bit of the first page?

Here’s a section from an interview I’m doing now for the Mad Hatter, which seems relevant:

MH: Tor UK has been recently re-releasing many of your books with new cover art, which I must say are usually outstanding. I've noticed they're usually going with some sort of crazy looking monster-alien creature popping off the page. Before I had read The Skinner I thought they'd be a crazy Horror/Sci-Fi mash-up, while they are clearly more than that were you going for a Horror feel at all. Do many of the stories involve monsters of a sort?

Neal Asher: Yes, many of my stories involve monsters, some of which, of course, are human. I don’t think the intention was to go for a horror feel to the books, since the horror market is not exactly in the rude health it was in twenty or so years ago. I think here we have more of a case of unashamed cover design. This is science fiction, this is science fiction with aliens, big guns and weird robots and, no matter what any myopic twits in the publishing industry might think, we are not going to have a still-life cover featuring a rose and a handgun.

MH: I think fans appreciate it. You can only have so many ephemeral space stations and ringed world covers...

And here’s some Facebook replies, fantasy first:

Jesper Krogsgaard: If it's all light, bright and glamour I usually stay 100 miles away. It has to be at least a bit gritty - unless it's a comedy.

Colin Strawbridge: Generic ‘bodice ripper’ type pictures are a big turn off.

Stuart McMillan: Heaving bosoms and demure damsels keep my wallet *in* my pocket. Saying that, great chested men with giant weapons are equally a turn-off.

Andy Plumbly: Typical bright colours and a generic character on the front. Saying that....Gridlinked originally caught my eye because of it's snazzy cover (the green one). Loving all the newer covers of yours too!

And now SF:

Jesper Krogsgaard: Ewoks. Cute and fuzzy. Using conventional pictures doesn't provide enough mystery unless you twist it. Again, like with fantasy, I like it gritty, dark and dangerous.

Colin Strawbridge: I think the typefaces used are more important than pictures; Gollancz have managed pretty well all these years without resorting to lurid graphics.One thing i find especially disconcerting is when they put celebrity reviewers names in much larger print than the actual author.

What do all you reading this think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Brass Man Cover

Mr Sullivan has done the book proud:

The knight errant Anderson is hunting a dragon on the primitive Out-Polity world of Cull, little knowing that far away a man has resurrected a brass killing machine to assist in a similar hunt that encompasses star systems. When agent Cormac learns that an old enemy still lives, he sets out in pursuit aboard the attack ship Jack Ketch … whilst scientist Mika begins discovering the horrifying truth about that ancient technology ostensibly produced by the alien Jain, who died out five million years ago.

On a planet roamed by ferocious insectile monsters the people of Cull must struggle to survive, while they build the industrial base to reach their forefathers’ starship still orbiting far above them. An entity calling itself Dragon assists them, but its motives are questionable, having created genetic by-blows of humans and the hideous local monsters before growing bored with that game. And now Cull, for millennia geologically inactive, suffers earthquakes…

Meanwhile a brass killing machine seeks to escape a bloody past it can neither forget nor truly remember. So mindlessly will continue its search for sanity, which it might find in an instant or not for a thousand years.

St. Leonards' Visit.

Another place we visit at least once a year, ever since being introduced to it by Peter Lavery ten years ago, is St. Leonards-on-Sea and, by foot from there, Hastings itself. In the winter time it is a little bit dreary, but there's still some excellent stuff to see, and to do. The latter of these usually involve fish and chips and red wine, which we always find we need after first installing ourselves in a fifth floor flat and then tramping for miles up and down various slopes. You have to remember we come from flatland Essex, and we live in a bungalow. My calves are still aching.

Here's one of the typically Victorian (Edwardian?) streets:

The Jain technology died in this park many years ago, but this remnant remains:

Nobody told Caroline it was a Whomping Willow:

Hastings Pier, a wonderful place where once you could play silly games, buy sickly sweets, stroll out over the sea or sup wine out at a table in the sunshine. Now being left to fall to ruin while the arseholes in the council instead blow money on a modern art gallery no one will visit. The sea air may clear ones head, but doesn't clear stupidity from the heads of council bureaucrats:

I nice little pub whose name I can't remember right now. It has everything a pub should have, except cigarette smoke and customers (there's a connection):

Family History

We took a wander up to Chatteris a week ago, stopped in a pub called The Cross Keys, then sloped back to Soham to do some research into Caroline’s family history. (Of course the latter place is famous for somewhat nastier events than being the breeding ground of the Sizer family. I did wonder about a rather odd look I got when I asked about the location of a particular graveyard) This research generally involved clumping about graveyards checking the names on tombstones, checking the names on a war memorial, then drinking beer and eating bacon and egg baguettes. Here’s a couple of pictures from the area. First off The Cross Keys itself:

Next the well-guarded door to our room:

Caroline's parents got the better bed!

One of our hunting grounds:

One of our finds (Sizer):

The Fountain - location of those wonderful baguettes, and where we wished we had stayed:

Wonders of the Solar System

I’ve been enjoying ‘Wonders of the Solar System’ because of Professor Brain Cox’s enthusiasm for science, for his relish of the great things we have achieved in throwing spacecraft millions of miles out to expand the frontier of human knowledge. It’s been good to see some of the newer pictures from that frontier and of course to see the superb graphics created. The program hasn’t really told me anything I don’t know – it’s really a Solar System basics class for those unaware of things like the order of the planets or how many planet Earths you could drop into Jupiter’s red spot, or generally what conditions pertain on each world. But it has seemed to be a return to the good BBC science program untainted by political ideology.

I mean, at one time I used to love Attenborough’s Life on Earth programs, but now I cannot watch them without feeling the urge to throw something at the TV when he delivers his regular-as-clockwork homilies about how we are destroying the planet with our profligate globally warming ways.

The first few episodes of Wonders of the Solar System remained pure enthusiasm and science so I watched with some trepidation when I realised this latest episode was about the ‘thin blue line’ – about planetary atmospheres. I enjoyed the stuff about Mercury’s lack of atmosphere leaving it open to direct meteorite collisions  and vast temperature changes, the stuff about Earth’s magnetosphere protecting it from the solar wind and how deep in Jupiter the pressure turns hydrogen into a metallized liquid. But then, with the inevitability of tax rises on petrol, booze and cigarettes, we got to the greenhouse effect, and Venus.

Cox gave a brief description of how the greenhouse effect works, perhaps annoying the faithful by pointing out how without it we would be freezing our butts of in temperatures 30 degrees lower than they are now. He then went on to say that the temperature on the surface of that world is hot enough to melt lead, apparently because of its CO2-laden atmosphere. I was there rooting for Cox because he did seem a little embarrassed to be mentioning this, and I was hoping he would also go on to point out some of the rather large elephants in the room.. But no, all we got was some nonsense about Venus being in the same ‘region’ of space as Earth. Rather disappointing really.

No mention then of how Venus being 26 million miles closer to a giant fusion reactor called the sun might have some bearing on its temperature. No mention how a ground level pressure of 93 times that of Earth’s might have an effect too, or that Venus receives over a thousand Watts per square metre more solar radiation than Earth. Nope, it’s all those Venusian coal-fired power stations.

I like to think that this was the minimum deal with the Devil Cox could make to ensure he would present the program. I like to think this was the minimum he could say to calm the political demagogues at the BBC so as to enable him to zip off to Africa to experience an English Electric Lightning jet flight straight up at 5 gees to the limits of the atmosphere to observe that ‘thin blue line’, or race across the Namib in a 4x4 to do a small piece about the sands of Mars, or race a speed boat across a lake to gather up some methane whilst talking about Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Anyway, I’ll continue watching the program, and just hope that the homilies are out of the way…  

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Banners...

These are from Walker of Worlds (I'll sort out how to get one of these on here, Mark).

Prador on Earth

I small colony of prador was discovered in a Victorian apartment block in St. Leonards on Sea. The owner of the flat in which they were found, one Peter Lavery, said, "Ah, they're just a bit of fun," but failed to explain why so many neighbouring flats now seem to be vacant.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

P is for ... on the Wrong Part of the Shelf!

It also occurs to me that as well as Philip Pullman's excellent fantasy (doing to God what SF writers have been doing for decades) I've also got just about every one of Terry Pratchett's books. However, since my mother likes them so much they're not in my collection but reside at her house.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Polity Games

Jeff Johnson here has been pondering how to occupy his time between reading my books:

After having read a number of Asher’s books about the Polity Universe, it occurred to me that this would be an excellent backdrop for a massive online game. Much like how World of Warcraft brings people together online to interact and battle monsters, I think a similar game could be fashioned for the Polity Universe, albeit much larger.

The first place to start is the character that the player would use throughout the game. One could choose between playing the game as a human, golem or war drone, with different advantages depending upon which was selected. Then select a few specialized skills and place personal touches on the appearance of their character. Once in the game, the player will have to rely on those skills to survive, gain additional points to increase their current skills or gain new ones, and of course earn credits to purchase equipment.

During game play, the player could travel to any number of planets within the polity, primarily through runcible gates. Once there they could interact with local inhabitants or deal with the local fauna. Depending on the location, a number of different scenarios could be open to the player. On some worlds, the player could engage in battling the Prador, while on other worlds they could hunt down separatists. For example, the player could opt to travel to Masada and help the rebels fight against the Theocracy government, all while dodging hooders and gabble ducks.

As mentioned before, it would be a large universe within which the player could explore, preferably a large number of planets with vast areas to explore and interact with fauna. Among those, the planets of Spatterjay, Cull and Masada would be an absolute must. Space stations such as Elysium, Miranda and Ruby Eye could be destinations.

Throughout their travels and battles, the player’s character will gain experience that will help boost their skills to higher levels. Should they choose to join a faction, their exploits can earn them a higher rank. While not required to join a faction upon first entering the game, the player will have the chance to work for ECS, one of the Hive minds or even become a separatist.

Of course there is one problem I can foresee should such a game become available. When would I ever sleep again?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

N and P for Niven and Pournelle


Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Reads My Books? Daniel Ware.

Ok so I finally got my thumb out of my bum and wrote something coherent (well almost) for you, Neal...

My name is Dan and I am 31 years old, married with a 2 1/2 year old son who I named Gaius after Gaius Baltar in new Battlestar Galactica (hopefully he won't grow up and destroy our society, though)

I am currently an Export Manager at a small fuel company, after doing stints working in IT for HSBC and then the MET/Essex Police as a project manager, before coming to my senses and getting out of the latter before the bureaucracy and political meddling drove me completely insane. I did actually come from a science background, my youthful obsession with dinosaurs turning into a Degree in Palaeobiology and Evolution after University, but sadly there are no jobs in hard science fields these days not already taken by entrenched minds and beings...

I guess I have my mother to thanks for my interest in Science Fiction - she is a big Alan Dean Foster fan - so I read a lot of his stuff from a young age (Cachalot and Sentenced to Prism being ones I remember). I never really left science fiction, though my continued interest in hard science meant most of my time was spent reading journals throughout my teens and 20s, so I dropped a lot of literature, coming back to it eventually several years ago.

I am also a keen gamer - rarely watching TV these days (since BSG went down the tube in season 3 I haven't watched anything except The Shield and the odd Fringe episode), but thankfully there are plenty of science fiction games to be had these days - Mass Effect 2 being a standout for any science fiction nut.

As for Neal's stuff, well I often looked at the cover of Line of Polity in my local Waterstones not long after it came out, but it was actually after I read Peter Hamilton's awesome Pandora's Star that I actually snatched up Gridlinked looking in desperation for something similar, and never looked back. Reading Gridlinked I was blown away by the quality of the writing and science fiction and I immediately went back and bought as many as I could in the same shop (including that copy of Line of Polity which I enjoyed even more).

After that, well there's no looking back I guess - found Neal's site, went to his signing in Lakeside (which he probably remembers as I dragged my wife and son along and we were the first ones there) and then went out for beers with the man himself at the next signing in London.

To date my favourite book is still probably Prador Moon, closely followed by all of the Polity series - it really defines how I think about science fiction now, the fact that I've met Neal and discussed it all in person is the absolute awesome sauce on top.

Well finally I guess, I do run a blog: which focuses a lot on gaming, but I do post the occasional bit of Asher news and the odd review (but nothing like Walker of Worlds site, which is awesome, btw) - just something to keep me sane at work more than anything, but I like it!

If anyone games on XBL, my gamertag is, yep: Jebel Krong; and you will currently find me playing the hell out of Mass effect 2 most nights!



p.s. I can't submit a photo of my book collection because I still don't have a bookcase. I keep them all in boxes, as between kids and life, a nice bookcase is always at the bottom of the priority list... *sigh* maybe this year...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Neal Asher Video Clip 14/3/10

And another video clip. Further questions in the comments section please!

Gardening Ahead

Here's a recent picture of our Crete house courtesy of Richard Graves. It looks like our first week back there will be spent weeding!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Library Thing

I've just joined up on The Library Thing, which seems pretty lively. Masses of reviews on there from the readers and lots of handy book suggestions. I rather like one comment I got there from a poster called 'andyl' (emphasis mine):

Yeah apart from Cowl Neal's books fall into two broad camps

1) Fast-paced super-spy secret agent types.
2) Very visceral novels about the alien environment of Spatterjay which someone summed up as "Blood, guts, and hundred-ton-sentient-mollusc rape." and which if I was Neal I would insist appear on the covers of all the Spatterjay novels.

However apart from those I really like the Mason's Rats short stories which are completely divorced from the Spatterjay / Polity setting.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Editor Interview

Here's Mark Charan Newton interviewing Julie Crisp - his editor and mine.

You’ve been on the throne at Tor UK for over a year now, and have inherited an established author list from the legendary Peter Lavery. What was that like for an introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing?

I did work on some SFF books previously – the Dune books by Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert, and Ben Bova’s novels when I worked at Hodder and Stoughton many years ago. So the Tor list wasn’t really my first introduction to SFF publishing.
However, taking over from the ‘legend in his own lunchtime and he of the terrifying red pencil’ Mr Lavery was, admittedly, rather intimidating. He’d been working in publishing for years and knew pretty much everything there was to know about the genre, so he left some big shoes to fill and they’re still feeling rather loose around the ankles a year on. But I think I’m getting there…

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where's My Banner?

Now let's play a game of 'Where's My Banner?'

The first place I find it is at Mark Chitty's Walker of Worlds.

The next place is at Gecko Mines, Railguns and Crab-Paste the website belonging to the poster here Jebel Krong (where does he get these outlandish names?)

I'm told it should be appearing at Civilian Reader, but it hasn't yet.

Anywhere else?

Update: now on

Living on Mars.

I can see the future. One day (after the flags have been planted, and after the Readymix lorries have departed and the property developers have set up shop) we will live on Mars. I see a future version of me trudging out across the Martian peneplain for a first look at my new home, whereupon, out from behind a boulder, will step a man clad in improbable shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. “Neal Asher?” he’ll enquire whilst consulting a clipboard. “Yes…” I’ll reply, worried that my instinct for avoiding time-share salesmen has deserted me. “So can I sign you up for the darts night, or the karaoke?” You’ll hear my screams long before I reach and tumble over the cliff edge of Coprates Chasma.

Lesley Pearse

One day when I was scrabbling around for something to read, Caroline handed me a book and told me I might enjoy it. Looking at the design of the cover I thought, ‘Mmm, a woman’s book’ but nevertheless gave it a go. It was Remember Me by Lesley Pearse, and I enjoyed it very much. This was the story of Mary Broad, a woman who survived transportation to Australia and a life it would be an understatement to call grim -- a story turned into a TV production you might have seen (but not based on the book).    

Recently Caroline picked up on the fact that, through the Essex Book Festival, Lesley Pearse would be giving a talk at South Woodham Ferrers library, which is just a ten minute drive away from us. She wanted to go and so did her mother, Myrtle, who is also a fan.

I’ve enjoyed these things before like, for example, when we went to listen to Martina Cole at Maldon library and she entertained us with stories about her work for Social Services. One other highlight of that visit was the righteous frown one of the staff gave us because we wanted to go outside for a cigarette, where we were joined by another smoker in the room, a blond-haired lady by the name of Martina Cole. So, even though I’d only read one Lesley Pearse book, I signed up too.

The talk she gave was good, kept us welded to our seats for an hour and could have continued for longer with no objection. I had to chuckle at some of the anecdotes. How, as a wannabe writer, would you feel about presenting a book to the agent Darley Anderson, having a meal with him and then, afterwards, him dropping the manuscript on the table and saying, “This is rubbish, but you can write – go away and write another one.” She did, book after book, and just like me had a number of books completed before she was ever published. In fact there were a lot of things she said whose familiarity I had a wry chuckle at.

If you get a chance to hear her speak she’s definitely worth the ticket price. 

Straylight Interview

Via Skype I recently did an interview (voice only) with some people at the University of Wisconsin. Here's the link to it. I think I babbled a lot -- too much coffee and too many cigarettes!

This week we bring you our third installment of our podcast series. This week we’ve interviewed novelist Neal Asher. The interview runs about 43 minutes and in it we discuss Mr. Asher’s writing process, his love of science fiction, as well as some of his upcoming works.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Chloe Healy just supplied me with this banner produced by their web team for It should also be appearing here and here shortly.

Crete House

I recently tried to send some pictures of our Cretan house to Julie Crisp and Chloe Healy at Macmillan, but got blocked by their email security. So, for when someone asks me about that place, I'm putting a few here to direct them to. The dates on these vary so, for example, the shot below of the spare room is from when we first went to look at the place.

1) The front of the house. Pergola yet to be put up.

2) The front of the house, repointed and pergola and grape arbour now visible.

3) Front garden, looking towards the front terrace.

4) View from the front terrace.

5) Side gate.

6) View from the roof.

7) Ruin around the back -- at some point to be turned into a guest room with double bed, shower and a little kitchen.

8) Central heating system.

9) Main room.

10) Main room (other direction).

12) Main bedroom.

13) Spare room.

Heavy Metal Movie

Interesting stuff here from the Heavy Metal Magazine Fan Page:


Pre-release Information - A $50 million budget 3D CG animated movie based on the magazine.   This probably won't have any stories from the first 1981 movie, however like the first one, it will feature around seven or eight different stories.  Each segment will be directed by a different person.  The title to this movie hasn't been chosen yet.  This current title is just a placeholder. 
Main Crew:
Executive Producer - David Fincher and James Cameron
- Kevin Eastman and Tim Miller
- David Fincher (1 segment)
Director - James Cameron (1 segment)
Director - Zack Snyder (1 segment, a story that Kevin Eastman wrote)
Director - Gore Verbinski (1 segment)
Director - Mark Osborne (1 segment, a comedy with Jack Black)
Director - Tim Miller (1 segment)
Director - Jeff Fowler (1 segment)
Director - Kevin Eastman (tentatively 1 segment)
Director - Guillermo del Toro (tentatively 1 segment)
Director - Rob Zombie (tentatively 1 segment)
Writer - Marc Laidlaw (1 segment)
Writer - Steve Niles (1 segment)
Writer - Joe Haldeman (1 segment)
Writer - Neal Asher (1 segment)
Writer - Kevin Eastman (1 segment, a story that Zack Snyder will direct)
? - Jack Black (a comedy segment that Mark Osborne will direct.  No details on how he's involved, but most likely will be an actor)
? - Jhonen Vasquez (no details on how he's involved, but most likely will be a writer)


I have to wonder about that 'seven or eight' different stories - which ones will be kept and which dumped - since they were working with five of mine...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Bloom Box

Now this seems too good to be true, but is it?

In the world of energy, the Holy Grail is a power source that's inexpensive and clean, with no emissions. Well over 100 start-ups in Silicon Valley are working on it, and one of them, Bloom Energy, is about to make public its invention: a little power plant-in-a-box they want to put literally in your backyard.

Who Reads My Books? Cameron Mackay.

My brother got me into SCI-FI by passing a pile of books on to me after he had read them. Amongst the pile was a few by Neal. Gridlinked made a special impression with me and I was hungry for more. I would eagerly await notification of the latest release from my brother but now I am linked (gridlinked?) through the medium of the internet to Neal’s blogs and facebook pages, the notification is almost instant.

So who am I?. My name is Cameron Mackay. Born in 1968 and a complete geek. Living in Tewkesbury with my Wife Sue and my right hand man in the shape of a hyperactive but obedient Border Collie called “Trouble”. I joined the RAF in 1986 and flew fighters in the ground attack and reconnaissance role for 10 years and now earn my keep as an airline pilot flying the Boeing 777. In my spare time I am studying for an Open University degree in Physics and Astronomy. Mostly that keeps me from sloping off to the pub of an evening but essentially, my studies are borne of an interest in all things related to space travel and the very nature of our existence; and where we all came from. So far I have discovered we all started in relatively young stars that were large enough to produce heavy elements in their core. The next stage in our existence is a little less clear, but Neal’s books give us all some food for thought on the nature of our consciousness and where we fit in to the universe we inhabit. Maybe one day we will see Reifs, Golems and subminds. but either way, I know when on I’m on my deathbed and expecting “lights out” I will be seriously disappointed they haven’t been invented yet!

So that’s about it. An amateur at SCI-FI but enjoying the glimpse into a possible future that I will never get to see.

You Gotta Laugh.

It is hilarious to read some of the sniping from that wankland occupied by many critics and wannabe academics of SF world. In that place it is possible to get away with the most egregious left-wing fuckwittery but, if you do not agree with their common purpose, you are first described as a clumsy and generally bad writer, then farcically branded ‘too political’! If an author writes the most grotesque Marxist diatribe dressed up as SF, the critics from this region will be fulsome in their praise, their literati masturbation frenetic as they mount his leg like over-excited terriers.

The above is my brief reaction to some shite I’ve read on the Internet about my stuff. Some while ago an American SF writer was in contact with me. With a degree of disbelief he said, “You’ve actually admitted to being Conservative … and you write science fiction?” Actually, I disagree. Since you’d have difficulty slotting a fag paper between the British Conservative and Labour parties, and since they are equally undemocratic and authoritarian, I style myself Libertarian i.e. I’m for small government, less interference and hey, let’s stop the growth of the thought-police right now. But I knew precisely what that writer meant by his comment, and am relatively unsurprised by the reaction I get from some quarters.

Damn but it must peeve these people to know that despite my not buying the party line I’m simply not failing and fading away into obscurity.

No, I’m not paranoid, though I’m sure the guy following me is.

Monday, March 08, 2010


Mmmm, The Hurt Locker, female director, low budget, about the Iraq war, bombs and Muslims vs SF epic with biggest budget ever and biggest taking ever. Cameron didn't stand a chance. C'mon, they gave one of these to Al Gore...

Julie Crisp Twitter

Just to let you all know. Various competitions to enter and all sorts of prizes to be won if you sign up for Julie Crisp's twitters 'julieacrisp', including signed books etc. You'll also get a fair bit of inside gen on the publishing world from the perspective of the senior commissioning editor at Tor Macmillan

Cretan Things

Since the sun is starting to put in an appearance and I am presently typing all my Crete journals into a file, I'm thinking more and more about Crete. Now, is my table still okay? I found it in a village dump, stripped it, re-glued it and stained and varnished it. It now resides in Nectarius and Elly's house next door where it served during their 'kazanis', which is a name attributable to a raki still, the place where a raki still can be found or the party they have whilst stilling the raki - I haven't made my mind up about that just yet.

Sci-Fi London Interview

Neal Asher
Uploaded by SFLTV. - Arts and animation videos.

Off to London today for Lunch with Julie Crisp and Chloe Healy and, hopefully, a book raid on Macmillan. So I'll leave you with the above that I found on Daily Motion. 

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Tanith Lee


When, after over a quarter of a century of scrabbling up the writing ladder I was finally taken on my Macmillan, I started to get invites to ‘author events’. At these I met various authors, but generally they were fairly new ones who I didn’t really know. At one such event (I believe it was the launch of Cecelia Dart-Thornton’s ‘The Ill-Mad Mute’, but I could be wrong) Caroline and I installed ourselves in an upstairs room of the pub The Princess Louise (nice history there – it was, so I was told, Dennis Neilson’s hunting ground).

We were quite new at this game and quite nervous of it all. We sat chatting to some people, but I couldn’t help but notice one guy who sat up at the bar by himself: very slim, looked to be about seven feet tall, long black hair down his back – if you wanted to get contemporary about it he could have been a member of the Jacob’s gang in Twilight.

After a little while, he came over with my boss at the time, Peter Lavery. We chatted and he was very pleasant and all I learned at the time was that his name was John. Peter later informed me that his full name was John Kaiine and that he was Tanith’s Lee’s husband. He’d come over to chat to us because we seemed to be some of the few people in the room not disappearing up their own bottoms.

Subsequently, when invited to Peter Lavery’s Victorian abode on the South coast I got to again meet John and to meet Tanith for the first time. Extreme fan-boy moment. Tanith Lee is a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed for most of my reading life. Here was a giant of fantasy fiction, a quick glance at her Wikipedia entry gives you some idea of what I’m talking about:

She is the author of over 70 novels and 250 short stories, a children's picture book (Animal Castle) and many poems. She has also written two episodes of BBC science fiction series Blake’s 7.

I got hooked into her writing by The Birthgrave, probably not so long after it was published in 1975, and I read her stuff constantly ever since. I list Volkhavaar as one of my top ten fantasy books (on the Guardian website I think) and really, I don’t see it ever dropping out of that list. Her books are ones I’ve returned to in later years and found have lost nothing by either them aging or me aging. I recommend you check some of them out. All of her Tales From The Flat Earth are good, I can also recommend books like Elephantasm, Vivia, The Storm Lord, East of Midnight, Heartbeast … actually I’ll stop there. Better to say that I haven’t read one that I haven’t enjoyed.

An enjoyable time was had by all, involving copious quantities of alcohol and then a curry. All the time I still could not dispel that ‘Wow, that’s Tanith Lee sitting there.’ At later events I’ve met and briefly chatted to Harry Harrison and Michael Moorcock and, even though those too were fan-boy moments, they weren’t quite like the first time.

Anyway, John and Tanith could not have been nicer, despite what they were going through at the time and which she’s now revealed on her website. It seems even the immortals cannot avoid cancer, though it has been knocked back.