Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hiatus Time

Okay, I'm going to be away for Internet access for a while so in the spirit of hard-headed self-interest I'll leave this post at the top of the blog.

The Skinner on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle.
The Voyage of the Sable Keech on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle.
Orbus on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle.

And don't forget, all you people who don't live in Britain, that the Book Depository does free international shipping.

Gridlinked on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle.
The Line of Polity on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
Brass Man on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
Polity Agent on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
Line War on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle

Prador Moon on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
Shadow of the Scorpion on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
Hilldiggers on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
The Gabble on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle
The Technician on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle

Have you seen anything you haven't got yet?

The Departure on the Book Depository, Amazon and not yet on Kindle. To be released in September, the first in a series continuing with Zero Point and Jupiter War.

The Parasite on Kindle. This is a 40,000 word novella people so no whinges about how short it is.

Cowl on the Book Depository, Amazon and Kindle

The Engineer ReConditioned on the Book Depository and Amazon
Africa Zero on the Book Depository and Amazon

And finally, for completists, if you want a copy of Runcible Tales, which is a chapbook containing five short stories, head over here to Piper's Ash (and don't come back here complaining about the number of pages etc).

I'll be returning to this blog once the Internet bars open again on Crete. See you all anon.


One here from someone called Derek Pasquill which is very nice but leaves me scratching my head a little. Search 'pasquin' and you get some interesting results:

A lampoon; a satire. At the opposite end of the city from the statue mentioned above, there was an ancient statue of Mars, called by the people Marforio; and gibes and jeers pasted upon Pasquin were answered by similar effusions on the part of Marforio. By this system of thrust and parry the most serious matters were disclosed, and the most distinguished persons attacked and defended. (I. D'Israeli.)

Asher's Universe

Asher's universe might be summed up by the following:

There is no necessity for anything, but that there is something is better than nothing. Everything though can sometimes overwhelm even the most advanced AI or stubborn human. Musn't grumble, and in the far-flung corners of the universe an essentially cheerful and laconic Billericayan stoicism retains its grip on reality. The good guys tend to win, what goes round comes round, simplicity collapses into complexity, and complexity evolves into simplicity. One might say it is just one thing after another.

What Asher's universe has in spades is coherence, and it shares this attribute with other fictional constructs:

- George Herriman's Coconino County
- Sterling E. Lanier's Metz Republic
- J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle Earth
- William Faulkner's Yokonapatawpha County

What is coherence? Here is a quote from the glossary at the back of Simon Bell's Elements of Visual Design in the Landscape (second edition), Spon Press, London, 2004, p.182:

Coherence - a term used by the environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan to describe one of the cognitive variables that define an attractive landscape. It means the fact that the scene makes sense and that all the parts fit together. It can be related to the design concept of unity.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the stories in Asher's universe concern the sudden upcroppings of complexities where these might be least expected, disrupters intent on the vigilant dexterity of their self-interest, which threaten hard-fought for coherence. Hard space opera then - ginglymusiferous, enthralling, at times hallucinogenic, quite possibly addictive, and not to be missed for the world.


Hmmm ... I do make a habit of claiming descent from my Italian forebears - my name is Derek Pasquill btw - after Pasquills who settled sometime ago in Lancashire (my grandfather was a bricklayer hence an interest in George Herriman's brick-throwing mouse, Ignatz, and also Menzel who spent some time depicting bricklayers, and other workers, in his paintings and drawings) - I'm probably the first Pasquill to bring some literary self-awareness to this line of descent though.

From my wikipedia entry (which, after an unsurprisingly short space of time, ended up in the wikibin):

Of ephemeral interest, the origin of the family name "Pasquill" may be traced to Pasquino (Lat. Pasquillus), one of the talking statues of Rome, and subsequent literary history of the word as a synonym and designator for an anonymous lampoon or squib. See Thomas Nashe and the Marprelate Controversy for an example of pasquil usage in sixteenth-century England.

The name 'Derek' is, of course, contained in the Dutch term for rhetorician, Rederijker, and, as pasquils were often proclaimed at late medieval Rederijkerskamers (Chamber of rhetoric), insertion of the imaginary nickname 'Red' into "Derek 'Red' Pasquill" produces a macaronic language device accentuating this historical connection.(1)

(1) Veldman, Ilja M. Maarten van Heemskerck and Dutch humanism in the sixteenth century. Amsterdam, Meulenhoff, 1977.


But ... to return to the review - I have been reading the Polity World series for the past few weeks, and the sentiment at the end - not to be missed for the world - even though there is some play on universe/world - is one that I do not think can be argued with. In particular:

--- Mr Crane - I can see why your readers find him so popular - he is a compelling character;
--- The Gabbleducks;
--- The use of Edward Lear to name the runcible, quince etc;
--- U-space, U-tech, U-continuum;

and so on. The metaphysics at the beginning of the review - anything, something, nothing, everything - it's just one thing after another - well this is based on other readings which perhaps mistakenly I have tried to shoehorn into your universe. And I'm still puzzling over Gotthard Gunther's

Parts of the Universe have a higher reflective power than the whole of it, which may be connected in some way.

Cybernetic Toenails!

All this sci-fi stuff seems to be having an odd effect on Caroline, first it was those orary earrings and now this:

All you foot fetishists, leave, now!

Audible on Kindle

It seems you can now listen to audio book on your Kindle (or other device), So if you click the Audible link to your right you can go get the Spatterjay books. Alternatively you could got get The Parasite novella, or any of my other Kindle books like, I dunno, The Technician? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super Moon?

Here's a picture of the Makrigialos shoreline along from the beaches we frequent while in Crete. According to the photographer, Richard Graves, the sea level has been this low for two weeks. Seeing this I was reminded of when we were chatting to the owner of a bar we frequent called Revans, the owner, Yorgos, talked of how, twenty years ago, he used have a much larger stretch of beach next to his bar. Interestingly, it's been twenty years since the moon was this close to Earth. Coincidence?

Brain Implant

I snaffled this one from Io9. The woman is controlling a cursor with her mind so how long before the link between mind and computer is much closer than that? I'd like my aug in a nice brassy metal, with an Egyptian cartouch inset, but I'll forgo the cobra eye-irrigator for now.

Helen Thomson - New Scientist — A paralysed woman was still able to control a computer cursor with her thoughts 1000 days after having a tiny electronic device implanted in her brain, say researchers who devised the system. The achievement demonstrates the longevity of brain-machine implants.

Fukushima Radiation

Thanks Peter Walker for directing my attention here. Wow, I'm astounded to read this on a BBC news website (though he lost me a bit with his mention of climate change), and really wish this kind of sanity appeared in its TV news programs . It doesn't. I select out the BBC in this respect mainly because it's funded by a compulsory tax, yet ITV and Sky have been just as bad. I must add that I have found a TV news program that seems free of much of the bias of the ones above and from which I at last obtained some sensible perspective on what's happening in Libya. Ironically that program is 'Russia Today'.

And Chernobyl? The latest UN report published on 28 February confirms the known death toll - 28 fatalities among emergency workers, plus 15 fatal cases of child thyroid cancer - which would have been avoided if iodine tablets had been taken (as they have now in Japan). And in each case the numbers are minute compared with the 3,800 at Bhopal in 1984, who died as a result of a leak of chemicals from the Union Carbide pesticide plant.

So what of the radioactivity released at Fukushima? How does it compare with that at Chernobyl? Let's look at the measured count rates. The highest rate reported, at 1900 on 22 March, for any Japanese prefecture was 12 kBq per sq m (for the radioactive isotope of caesium, caesium-137).

A map of Chernobyl in the UN report shows regions shaded according to rate, up to 3,700 kBq per sq m - areas with less than 37 kBq per sq m are not shaded at all. In round terms, this suggests that the radioactive fallout at Fukushima is less than 1% of that at Chernobyl

Go read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Interview with Jerry Pournelle.

Good interview with Jerry Pournelle here on Pyjamas TV.

Glenn Reynolds sits down with science-fiction master Jerry Pournelle to discuss the Japanese reactor meltdowns, atomic energy, the climate, and the future of artificial intelligence. How prepared is the United States for disaster? Pournelle wonders whether FEMA and the decline of civil defense has put America at even greater risk in the event of disaster.

Simon Kavanagh Interview

This is an old interview on the SFX site but still interesting for all that. Simon Kavanagh is a literary agent who works for Mic Cheetham's. Before that job he also read some typescripts for Peter Lavery at Macmillan. One of the typescripts dumped on him, along with the question, 'Is this any good?' was from a little known SF author and bore the title Gridlinked...

SFX: What’s the most powerful lesson you’ve learned about the writing business?

“That plot is everything. I once heard an editor say that ‘character’ was the most important element of a novel. Tosh. Dickens creates great characters – but Oliver Twist would be a bloody short book if Oliver lived with his mum and dad. It’s a constant curiosity to me that this element of fiction is so ignored by literary critics. Stephen King and Peter F Hamilton, for example, are Paramount Grand Masters of plot – but that aspect of their work is never given the ‘literary’ credit it deserves. Then again – who cares? They sell well and the public get their money’s worth. So bear in mind that publishing exists in a world dominated by sales figures. It has to in order to survive and compete with film, TV and games. It’s not exactly ‘three strikes and you’re out’ but you have to sell copies in order to survive.”

SFX: What’s the biggest mistake that inexperienced writers make when trying to break into the SF scene?

“The biggest mistake is trying to be someone else. Don’t try to be Tolkien. Don’t try to be Neal Asher, JK Rowling or Ken MacLeod. All writers steal ideas, scenarios, inspiration, characters from each other – how could they not? But they have to find their own voice in which to tell their story. If I’m in a bookstore and want to read something like George RR Martin then I’ll buy George RR Martin and not the chap who’s like him. That’s easy advice to give, but incredibly hard to implement when you’re staring at a blank page.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Great Story Complimented by a Great Reader.

It seems like a guy called Paul enjoyed The Skinner, The Voyage of the Sable Keech and Orbus on Audible:

I've been a huge fan of Iain M Banks for a long time, loved the early works of Jon Courtenay Grimwood, and read the hardcopy of Neal Asher's first full length published novel 'Gridlinked' years ago, not long after it's publication.

Somehow I then lost track of Neal, but fortunately rediscovered him via Audible. I've listened to The Skinner (Book 1), The Voyage of The Sable Keech (Book 2) and am currently a few chapters into Orbus (Book 3). I've listened to these back to back, unremittingly, and with great relish.

Over the years I've always been excited to learn of a favorite author's new work, and somehow 'losing touch' with Asher is great - all of a sudden I have a wealth of published material to enjoy en masse, rather then being drip-fed as novels are published. Of course now, as I'm engrossed in the third and final Spatterjay audiobook, I am hoping that Audible and Neal's publisher get together and publish more of Neal's back catalog in audio format.

So a few words about the series. Spatterjay is a very interesting place - from it's ecology, to it's early colonisation, to it's present situation on the edge of the Polity - all of these diverse influences come together through rich characterisations of visiting Polity humans (both alive and dead), Polity AI, Prador with dirty secrets that need to be forgotten, 700 year old virally-modified superhumans who can handle a sailing boat and bend steel, and my personal favorite, drones with Attitude.

I'm not talking about snotty Culture drones, replete with sarcasm and irony. No, I'm talking about 700 year old Polity War Drones with secret upgrades and a Northern accent. The type of Drone that says 'F*** me!' when it sees a Prador, or 'B******s!' when it doesn't believe a ship AI. If you thought Skaffen-Amtiskaw was cool, wait until you meet Sniper!

William Gaminara does a fabulous job on the reading, and has the characters down pat - he brings the books to life.

More Asher on Audible please!

The audble link is over to the right of this post between 'followers' and 'uptweets'. If you go there you can listen to samples of the books being read by Mr Gaminara.

Orbus Review - Bob Lock

Bob has found a review of Orbus he didn't get round to posting until now, which is pretty understandable considering the shit time he's been having. I have to add, Bob, in reply to that 'horrible slurry of blood, flesh and bones' ... ahem, that's what you do get (or, alternatively, get your tongue out of your cheek!)...

Browsing Neal Asher’s blog I noticed a review he’d posted of his novel Orbus and remembered I had also done a review when it was first published but never posted it on my blog, so here it is.
Ok, get the following ingredients: someone who’s been an engineer, a barman, a skip lorry driver, a coalman, a boat window manufacturer, a contract grass cutter and a builder, then mix them all together and you should have... Neal Asher, science fiction novelist.

I gave it a try and all I ended up with was this horrible slurry of blood, flesh and bones, I must be doing it wrong...

Orbus on the Book Depository (free international shipping), Amazon and Kindle.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Gabble on Io9

And here's a mention of The Gabble on Io9.

Asher's monster-packed, politically-savvy novels mostly take place in "the Polity," his interstellar civilization. He's dealt with everything from time travel to AI in books like Gridlinked and Line War, and this new short story collection promises to bring you a satisfying dose of Polity monsters and machinations.

The Gabble on the Book Depository (free shipping), Amazon and Kindle.

Update: I also see that Jon Sullivan gets a deserved mention too.

Orbus - Review

Nice review of Orbus over here at Fantasy Book Review from Pippa Jay.

When I wrote my first Asher review on The Gabble, I said I wouldn’t swear to be an eternal fan of Neal Asher. I have to retract part of that statement, and until the advent of Polity golems for me to upload my brain to, that means I’m a fan. There, said it.

I really enjoyed Orbus. I’ve read reviews that say the main character is weak, but I can’t say I got that impression at all. Asher hooked me from the very beginning with this book, with the snippy dialogue between the two drones stowed away on an AI ship with a steampunk design to the sardonic interplay between Old Captain Orbus and his creepy but aptly named fellow crew member Drooble.

‘I don’t like your name … it sounds like a blend between dribble and droopy … it’s a silly name.’

Orbus on the Book Depository (free international shipping), Amazon and Kindle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Line War Cover

And here's the new Jon Sullivan cover for Line War:

The Polity is under attack from melded AI entity controlling the lethal Jain technology, but the attack seems to have no coherence. When one of Erebus’s wormships kills millions on the world of Klurhammon, a high-tech agricultural world of no real tactical significance, Cormac is sent to investigate, though he is struggling to control an ability no human being should possess, and beginning to question the motives of his AI masters.

Further attacks and seemingly indiscriminate slaughter ensue, but only serve to bring some of the most dangerous individuals in the Polity into the war. Mr Crane, the indefatigable brass killing machine sets out for vengeance. Orlandine, a vastly-augmented haiman who herself controls Jain technology, seeks a weapon of appalling power and finds allies from an ancient war.

Meanwhile Mika, scientist and Dragon expert, is again kidnapped by that alien entity and dragged to the heart of things; to wake the makers of Jain technology from their five million year slumber.

But Erebus’s attacks are not indiscriminate, and could spell the end of the Polity…

Line War on Amazon, Kindle and the Book Depository (free international shipping).

Hilldiggers Cover

Here's the new cover produced by Jon Sullivan for Hilldiggers:

A terrible war once raged between the two rival planets within a distant solar system. Over the centuries their human inhabitants had ‘adapted’ themselves to the extremely different conditions of their new homes, far outside Polity influence.

In the midst of this merciless conflict, one side encountered a bizarre object suspected of being a cosmic superstring employed as a new weapon by the rival side. Their attack on it caused the object to collapse into four parts, each found to be packed either with alien technology or some unknown form of life. Pending further study, these were quickly encased inside four separate Ozark cylinders, and stored in a massively secure space station in orbit.

Sometime later, while conducting research on this alien entity they now call ‘the Worm’, a female scientist falls pregnant and subsequently gives birth to quads. She then inexplicably commits suicide by walking directly out into space…

The war was finally brought to an end by use of new weapons arising as a result of research of the Worm. These were employed by giant space dreadnoughts nicknamed ‘hilldiggers’ –– and their destructive power created new mountain ranges out of the vanquished planet’s terrain. Twenty years after the dust has settled, those four exceptionally talented orphans have grown up to assume varying degrees of power and influence within a post-war society.

And one of this exceptional breed now seems determined to gain total control over the deadly hilldiggers. 

Hilldiggers on Amazon, Kindle and at the Book Depository (international free shipping).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

5 Desert Island Reads - Andy Oliver

Here are another five desert island reads (once again demonstrating that my fans can't count) for you to pore over and discuss whilst I bugger off down to Hastings for a few days to eat fish and chips and drink red wine.

Hi Neal,

Here are my desert island books. Sorry for the poor quality photo - was taken on my phone as I cannot find our camera, and also for for my dog's ass - he would not move out the way!

Like others have found I really struggled to cut the list down so I also have cheated slightly. Rendezvous with Rama & The Stars My Destination are both quite small you see - so I figured that they would only take up the room of one larger book (self justification, self justification).

I walked along my shelves and could easily have doubled the number I ended up with, but I made a deliberate choice to not have books others have chosen (with one exception, more on that later), so there are no Asher, Banks or Baxter, however the choices for those would have been the Skinner (first Asher book I read and look where that got me ;-) ), Banks would have been possibly Player of Games, but that would have been a difficult choice, and for Baxter well, god knows. As someone mentioned - he turns his hand at everything and is pretty damn good at it all!!

So, onto my choices:

Rendezvous with Rama (and the follow up Rama books too) - Arther C Clarke - 2001 may be a seminal work and it truly is a good book but the Rama sequence is an epic journey of a story. I this when I was about 17 ro 18, and it has shaped my reading ever since, I very quickly had to read the following trilogy of Rama books. I was always drawn to SF, but I think this book sealed the deal.

The story follows an alien cylinder which enters the solar system so we send an crew to find out what it is. We follow the crew through there exploration and slow understanding of the vessel only to be left wanting more at the end. Then followed a series (3 more) of books which take you onto a universal scale tour finally exploring the true meaning of our place in the universe.


The stars my destination (Tiger Tiger) - Alfred Bester - my only double of someone else (I think), but I had to have this here. I read this in one night, I was just lost in the story. The story of Gully Foyle is intense and dramatic. Revenge and murder are both beautifully shown in the story. Our protagonist develops from a feckless nobody into a one man killing machine with high intelligence and, more than a desire, a necessity, to succeed in his mission.

The Descent - I read this before the movie came out, again when I was 19 or 20. Its the story of an underground world of 'monsters' who became more advanced than us, but then lost the skills and smarts (or just stopped learning) while we on the surface kept on expanding. If I remember correctly a group of explorers go wandering, get into trouble, then it escalates with the army becoming involved. There is war, massive scale death, ambushes and deception.

Hmm, haven't read it in quite a while so need to re read it - I'm struggling to remember the finer details of the story, but it made enough of an impression for me to choose it here.

Altered Carbon - the first of Richard Morgans Kovac's trilogy, and also Morgans first novel. Its a fast paced blitz through a short period of Kovacs life. He is a former Envoy - a special forces solider - who has been forcible 'hired' by a man who is part of the long lived 'Meths' (Methuselah), This man was killed but everyone has a cortical stack which records the essence of the person. This can be backed (if you have the money) up so Bancroft only lost 24 hrs - now he wants to know why.

The only way to truly kill people is to blow out the stack and hope they don't have a backup somewhere.

Inverted World - Christopher Priest, I had not read any Priest stuff before but this definitely makes me want to (he also wrote the Prestige which was a film with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman). The story here follows a city which travels along tracks to stay ahead of time. The residents of the city have to build the tracks ahead of them, and rip them up from behind. Along the way they encounter 'natives' from outside the city who the occasionally trade with. Often the trade involved the 'loan' of women who are used for breeding to ensure the city's population remains topped up.

The story follows one man growing up and becoming an explorer who helps to produce the route that the city must take. These explorers age artificially quickly, due to the nature of the world. Big revelations and a fantastic slow reveal twist make this a brilliant read.

Yellow Blue Tibia - Adam Roberts. This is an excellent, comedic tale that starts with Stalin calling together a (dozen perhaps) SF authors from across Russia to write a story about alien invasion and domestic terror. This is to be used to replace the waning threat of America so that Stalin can keep the Russian citizens under control.

Quite quickly the group is disbanded and told to forget everything they have thought of 'or else!'

Years later the story they wrote appears to be coming true. The story is excellently written with some fantastic laugh out loud sections, (the torture section where our protagonist turns the questions around on his questioner - I had to read twice because I kept laughing!), but its not all jokes. There is a very good twisting story that keeps moving from start to end.

Definitely recommended - as is 'Dragon with a girl Tattoo', a recent Roberts book parodying a certain Swedish novel that has recently been making waves!

What's left...

Oh, that's it - I've finished my list!! Doh

I can certainly recommend all the above for people to read. Hope that above has made good reading.


Andy (Osh on the comments section occasionally)

Bugger - just remembered about Joe Haldeman - Peace and War (forever war series), another I would happily have on my island, but thankfully that's been covered by someone else!

Oh - and any spelling mistakes have obviously occurred while Neal put this on his blog as opposed to during my typing!! Honests...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ebooks etc

What a pain in the arse. I can't publish for Ipad because I don't have an ISBN for The Parasite and I can't publish for Nook because I need an American bank account. However, I'm betting all this is going to get easier.

Norman Spinrad

Seems Norman Spinrad is dipping his toes in the ebook market. I smell revolution in the air.

I’ve made backlist novel titles and even a couple of original collections available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as ebooks, and so am familiar with the deal and its numbers. You can set your own prices, but they can’t be lower than $2.99. That’s not a high price for a novelette, about the cost of two lousy beers or one good one in the store. And the writer gets 70%. Try to get a royalty rate like that with a traditional paperbound publisher!


I laughed uproariously last night. Apparently, according to a BBC reporter, the Fukushima 'disaster' is in danger of overshadowing the surrounding tsunami disaster. Um, hey Mr BBC reporter, don't you think you might have had something to do with that?

Define disaster. Let's see, 10,000+ people killed, whole towns wiped out, 10s of thousands made homeless, and now running out of food and water as opposed to, say, nuclear plants badly damaged and maybe having to be sealed in concrete, a handful of workers injured, and one killed in a crane accident.

Of course, no problem now. The imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya has apparently suspended the Japanese nuclear holocaust.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mindgames: Fool's Mate

Prior to 1990 and maybe a few years afterwards, before my hair started to turn grey and before I becamesuch a cynic, I was a member of an ‘SF folio’ – a postal workshop. This consisted of a group of writers scattered about the country mailing each other their work for criticism. The postal folio contained a list of addresses, when I received it I inserted a chapter, or a short story or some other piece of writing, wrote criticisms of each other piece in the folio, then posted it on to the next person on the list. By the time it came back to me I had received criticisms of my piece from every other writer. I then took out my previous piece of work and inserted my next, and so the process continued.

Note: I can’t remember all the names of the authors in that folio, but do know that one of them was a guy called Conrad Williams, who you might be familiar with. Also, for those wannabe writers reading this, you can now find Internet versions of the above.

I wrote a novella during this called ‘To Die But Once’ and also began to have a smattering of successes in the small presses – for which payment was usually just a free copy of the magazine concerned – and I was always searching for new markets. I used to read ‘Writing Magazine’ and in there I found out about a new publishing company called Club 199 who were looking for novellas of about 40,000 words for which they gave a flat payment of £1000. I duly scrubbed up the aforementioned novella and sent it off. When I received the phone call telling me my piece had been accepted, I fell on the floor. Wow! I was being paid real money for my work!

Trying to be professional I then immediately went on to write another 40,000 word novella for the same market. This was The Parasite. Meanwhile Gordon McGregor’s Club 199 decided on a better title for ‘To Die But Once’ and changed the title to ‘Mindgames: Fool’s Mate’. It was published, I got my money, and then a short while afterwards Club 199 went skint. Having by then managed to make a small name for myself in the small presses I got The Parasite published with Tanjen, followed that with The Engineer and continued my climb towards Macmillan. I am, I think it’s safe to say, a ‘time served’ writer.

With this Kindle route to publication now available I’m once again going through ‘Fool’s Mate’. There’s a fair bit of work to do since the file is one that I converted from Wordstar on a 5.25 inch floppy disc – perhaps both of these are things that some of you have never even used. When I first converted it I had to employ find-and-replace to change words that had become hieroglyphs back into words again. Now I have to sort out formatting that’s all over the place, and of course plenty of crappy English. The novella is stunningly naïve, but fun. I’m not going to hammer it too much and when it’s ready it’ll be another one for Kindle publication.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fukushima Again

But this time with a science fiction connecton swiped directly from The Next Big Future, which is an excellent site. Here is part of Jerry Pournelle’s take on the Fukushima thing:

The radiation plume of 400 milliseiverts is from a small area of certainly no more than 100 square meters. If we assume that the Fukushima Daiichi reactors collectively manage a plume the size of a square kilometer, then to get comparable numbers we need to multiply the 400/hour by (24 x 365) to get a year's worth. Assume uniform distribution and divide by 500 million (global distribution). That comes out to .007 milliseiverts / year. I know of no scenario in which the Japanese reactors could sustain an emission rate of 400 milliseiverts per hour for a week, much less for a year, nor how there could they generate radioactive fallout uniformly over a square kilometer.

I am told that I am off in my calculations above, but off in the correct direction, which is to say the levels are too large. That's unfortunate in that I don't like to be wrong, but it also emphasizes my point, which is that the absolute worst case has no more global effect than did an event that many weren't even aware of, and which didn't have any great global effect.

The important lesson from Japan is that we took obsolete reactors with old designs and safety features, and subjected them to a 9.0 quake and a very large tsunami, and the damage to the planet is an unfortunate but hardly decisive event.

Go read the whole thing.

Then we have this:

Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh)
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao) 1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

And more here at The Register.

I really think there should a ‘cry wolf’ award for TV reporters.

5 Desert Island Reads -- Phil Middleton

Hello Neal,

Well, that was a challenge and if you give me another ten minutes I’ll change them all again.

One thing I have now noticed is that most of the books I read these days are multiple volume stories. There are many authors I could include, ASHER, Hamilton, Clark, Reynolds, Banks but it’s always nice to have some variation. Of course if I washed up on a desert island with my luck the only other survivor would be the crate of Mills and Boon!

Jack the Bodiless by Julian May. After borrowing The Saga of the Exiles from a friend and thoroughly enjoying it I moved on to this, The Galactic Milieu series. Mankind’s telepathic abilities awake and while they argue and fight among themselves the rest of the galaxy watches, for a while anyway. I just liked the concept and as most of the story was set in modern times you can relate to it a little more. Unfortunately Mays later books did nothing for me.

Illium by Dan Simmons. Now here’s an author that can knock out a mean book. Dan, as already mentioned by Rob Darby, is probably best known for The Hyperion books, which I have read, but my preference is for Illium/Olympus. The siege of Troy mixed with sentient robots and strange goings-on on planet earth, what more could you ask for. Dan is one of these authors who can turn his hand to anything it appears; SF, detectives, horror.

Evolution by Stephen Baxter. Where does this man get his ideas from? Mammoths, alternate history, “human” civilizations existing at the micron size, to name but a few. I have yet to find a Baxter book I didn’t enjoy. I would have to place him as my second favourite author…………..can you guess who’s first?

The Gap into Conflict by Stephen Donaldson. This, of course, represents the whole Gap series. Having read “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” and being very impressed by a fantasy that didn’t obviously rip off the Lord of the Rings I think Donaldson made an exceptional debut in scfi. He has since chosen to revisit Thomas Covenant but hopefully he may write some more scfi in the future.

The Silkie by A E Van Vogt. This I’ve had for a long time so it must have something going for it. If I remember correctly it’s about genetically modified humans. I don’t know if I’ve read any more of his books and certainly can’t name any. This obviously needs more investigation

So there you go, hardest bit of work I’ve done all week!


Best regards

Phil Middleton
Purchasing and Logistics Manager

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Parasite Blurb

Thanks Stu for the slightly altered cover here (which needs a bit sliced off the top). Will get round to a contents list at some point.

The Parasite on Kindle.

After mining complex ices deep in the Solar System, Jack Smith is concerned about his profit margin, but is it him who doesn’t want to face quarantine or something squirming inside him? The Cryon Corporation Director, Geoffry Haven, is also concerned about the bottom line and might consider Jack an expense he can no longer afford, though perhaps suitable for a starring role in a snuff movie. Meanwhile, the human and unhuman agents of World Health must investigate. Perhaps it’s time to deploy vat-grown killers and an anti-photon weapon, because the parasite is coming to Earth, and it’s hungry.

The Parasite was first published by Tanjen Ltd as an illustrated novella back in 1996. Tanjen closed down a number of years later and since then the novella has been difficult if not impossible to obtain. There are copies out there, but checking recently I haven’t seen one for below $50.00, which is a hell of a lot for something only 130 pages long and perhaps only for completists. I’ve edited it again, though I haven’t been too heavy-handed since I didn’t want to deliver something that had completely ceased to be the original. This is my first attempt at self-publishing through Amazon Kindle. I hope you all enjoy it!
– Neal Asher

“Once again, Neal Asher gives his reader a meal of such exquisite taste that you're left like Oliver, desiring more.” – Authortrek

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fukushima Hysteria

I am getting heartily sick of some of the reporting on the nuclear reactor thing going on in Japan. Trying to wean facts from hyperbole and hysteria is getting very difficult. A recent news report I watched started off with groups of Japanese crying then segued into a shot of another group of them standing about in masks, in the rain, holding up umbrellas. Apparently the first group of people were very upset about what was happening with the reactors, whilst the people in the second group were protecting themselves from potential fall-out by donning masks and putting up umbrellas.


Of course the reporter concerned did not state this outright but rather used mealy-mouthed language to imply it. Now, there’s been an earthquake, a tsunami, thousands of people have lost their homes, thousands have lost their lives, thousands have lost relatives … could this be the reason some are crying? Also, did you notice the early reports about all this from Tokyo? Even during the earthquake people were wandering about with paper masks on their faces. Now this strikes me as odd and perhaps the Japanese have been far to enamoured with Michael Jackson, but they were wearing masks before anyone even mentioned those scary words 'radiation' and 'melt-down'. And, just a thought here, could they have had umbrellas up because it was raining?

Upwards of ten thousand people have been killed and I suspect that when the final figures comes in it is going to be multiples of that. Tens of thousands are homeless, without water and power, struggling to get enough to eat, might at any moment be hit by another tsunami, yet the TV news focus is moving away from that. Now we have chest-beating reporters telling us about reactor buildings exploding and coming apart just like they are designed to, about ‘melt-down’ in reactors built to contain it, about a hysteria-driven safe evacuation of people probably way beyond what is necessary.

But yes, everything that is happening with these reactors is news, but really there should be more sense of proportion. The Fukushima nuclear power station 'disaster' is serious, but campared to everything else all around it, it's like a few shell bursts amidst the Somme.

If you want a real perspective on this go here, and read the updates. And let me finish with a quote from the same source:

The lesson so far: Japan suffered an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented proportion that has caused unbelievable damage to every part of their infrastructure, and death of very large numbers of people. The media have chosen to report the damage to a nuclear plant which was, and still is, unlikely to harm anyone. We won’t know for sure, of course, until the last measure to assure cooling is put in place, but that’s the likely outcome. You’d never know it from the parade of interested anti-nuclear activists identified as “nuclear experts” on TV.

Parasite Remix

Here's another pop at it:

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Parasite Kindle.

Right, I've mocked up the temporary cover for it below (though I don't know how I feel about the words 'Neal Asher The Parasite'!), I'll write a blurb and sort out a table of contents too. However, I can't really do anything about that until I can get back at it, which it's not letting me do. The Amazon ranking as I write this is 423, but I'm buggered if I know what that might mean in terms of sales.

The Parasite on Kindle

Right, that was quick. The Parasite, one of the first 'books' I published - it is in fact a 40,000 word novella - is now available on Amazon Kindle. I've worked through it, but not a huge amount since I didn't want to change it into something that had ceased to be that original The Parasite. That, I can tell you, was a temptation difficult to resist. I also haven't got a cover picture or ISBN number up. If I'd used the original cover picture then I would have had to bugger about with copyright issues and I didn't get an ISBN because I don't yet know whether it would be worth the money (10 ISBNs for a £100 I'm told)

I hope you all enjoy it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Calling Kindle Owners

Okay guys, I'm getting near to publishing The Parasite on Amazon Kindle. Now, in an attempt not to fuck this up too badly, I have a questions:

Presumably, once you've bought a book from Amazon for your Kindle you can download it as many times as you like? I'm asking this because I've loaded a Word version for Kindle convert and I'm not entirely happy with the formatting. It looks like it might appear without the small margins I've seen on pictures of other works on Kindle. If it turns out that it looks crap I need to be sure that I can update it and that you can download it again.

Can you put in margins on your ebook?

Come to think of it ... once something is actually published on Kindle can it be edited later?

I am presuming you can change the size of the text on Kindle, can you also change the font?

More questions as they occur to me in the comments...

Last Argument of Kings -- Joe Abercrombie

This was a hugely enjoyable completion to the trilogy. What else is there to say? Okay: great characters I really cared about, pain that really hurt, the dirt blood and reality of battles in which people are hacking at each other with effing great meat cleavers and, very very loosely paraphrasing Arthur C Clarke, magic with the drawbacks of technology, especially the kind of technology that appeared at the end of the cold war and has haunted us ever since. I also have to acknowledge wry hat-tips here, and in the other books, to various, ahem, famous speeches and scenes both in reality and fiction. Immediately springing to mind from the last book are The Caves of Moria, whilst in this one we have Churchill… And for me, it’s been wonderful to discover that I still like fantasy, or rather, I like fantasy that’s done well. Nice one Mr Abercrombie.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scorpion Histogram

This bit of frivolity from Nuno Salgueiro....

Here's the word frequency histogram for Shadow of the Scorpion. The size of each word is proportional to how often that word was used in your novel. I also removed frequent English words, as those would be noise. All this is done in a rather simple way (you probably already know this online tool).

Ahh, the things one does with too much time available... :P Hehe, don't even bother to answer this email, you already wasted too much reading it!

- Nuno

No SF at the BBC

Well I know that - I tried to watch Outcasts.

Stephen Hunt is getting hacked off with the BBC attitude to genre fiction as we can see in his blog post here. There's also this article at the Guardian. I'm not sure I entirely agree. The Guardian seems more serious about genre fiction than just about any other newspaper, has published the article I've just pointed out, and it's also joined at the hip to the BBC. What do you think? Maybe it's only mentioned in the elitist spirit of 'inclusiveness' of the sneering intellectual pseud?

The good news is that the BBC has recently woken up to the decline of the printed word as an art form, and has belatedly decided to do something about it. The bad news is, shortly after they belatedly spotted all the high street bookshops going bust, they sent in the Sloanes with Purdey shotguns to lecture us on animal welfare.

Recently we’ve had Faulks on Fiction, where one of the bishops of the contemporary fiction high church, Martin Amis, laughed, ‘People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children’s book. I say, “If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children’s book.”’

Then we were offered World Book Night and a whole evening of BBC book coverage where the contemporary fiction team was trotted out onto the grass to kick the ball about – solely between themselves, of course.

The highlight of this was presenter Susan Perkins in the ironically entitled The Books We Really Read: a Culture Show Special making it sneeringly clear that she never normally reads any of our lowbrow genre tripe (although she might, you know, give it a whirl now, just for the sake of World Book Night). Fiction has to be painful, a little like school, she explained, before gushing all over some bemused beauty salon clients that her favourite must-read was Dostoevsky, who is all, like, really dark and stuff.

Fantasy was not mentioned once during the Perkins farce, fantasy, the very mother root of literature, JRR Tolkien and Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and JK Rowling and Joe Abercrombie and China Miéville and Michael Moorcock all stuffed inside CS Lewis’s wardrobe, the better not to be seen.

Not a single work of science fiction was brought up, so farewell then the brave new worlds of HG Wells, John Wyndham, George Orwell, Iain M Banks, Brian Aldiss, Sir Arthur C Clarke, Aldous Huxley, JD Ballard, Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton and Stephen Baxter.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Translation Rights for Orbus.

The translator of my books in the Czecho Republic, Petr Kotrle, was rather gloomy about the publishing situation there since the Czech government has now decided to charge 20% VAT on books - like all governments their solution to money problems is more tax. This is rather like a leech attached to a host almost drained of blood deciding that the best thing to do now is suck harder.

Anyway it's nice to hear that the translation rights for Orbus have been bought by the Czech publisher Polaris. I'm hoping that Polaris buying Orbus is a good sign...

Now, I really must tot up which of my books are translated where. I'm starting to lose track.

Editing The Parasite

It’s an odd experience for me to again read The Parasite while I’m editing it. So much has changed. My English is a lot smoother now and I know how to write sentences that are longer than ten words. I more clearly see the logical connections in the flow of the plot and my paragraphs are … tidier. But beyond the English other differences strike me.

Here was a novella I wrote when I simply did not think to question the idea, often promulgated, that the real bad guys are from the corporation or the company. Think about films like Alien and the recent Smurf movie, think about other films and TV you’ve seen and books you’ve read. When the be-suited killers start turning up they are usually working to cover up the dirty doings of some evil capitalists.

This was also written at a time when I unquestioningly accepted global warming as a threat, hence we have ‘Maldon Island’ (presently an inland town), a one-metre sea-level rise and a requirement for massive sea-level defences. I’ve changed all that now, so if you wish to read it you’ll have to get hold of the old Tanjen copy depicted.

I also bought into the idea of ‘good’ multinational organisations rather than such working for their own advantage, hence the good guys here working for World Health. When I wrote this I was teetering on the edge of but had not yet fallen into the pit of cynical despond. This sort of reminds me that when I was 16 and working I thought ‘I’m a grown up now’, but then about ten years later I looked back on that callow youth and chuckled at his naivety, then ten years after that I looked back at that ‘boy’ in his mid-twenties and thought the same, and so it has been ever since. I suspect we all do this right up to coffin-dodging territory.

Noticeable repetitions in the novella, or rather, bits I borrowed from it and used in my Macmillan books: cloned CIA killers (Tack in Cowl), snuff tapes uploaded to a Golem’s mind (Brass Man), a parasite strengthening its host (The Skinner of course), questions about what it means to be human, and about free-will (All of them)… and plenty more besides. I also noticed I’d named a character here ‘Langstrom’ then did the same in The Departure. I have to wonder at the subconscious source of that name, since the gap between the books has to be at least 15 years. I’ve now changed that name in the updated version of The Parasite.

No Hoopers Live Here.

Here's a picture Richard Ayling snapped while out and about, to which I just had to add the news story below. He snapped in darkness, hence the graininess. Shades of stumbling on a pub called The Slaughered Lamb in the night...

Police baffled by the gruesome murder of a merchant seaman. Forensics officers were seen entering property here, and an inside source informs us that numerous metallic ‘spiders’ were found in the cellar, along with an aquarium full of large ‘worms’. However, our source cannot explain why officers are consulting with a taxidermist, or why a purported witness to this crime now requires psychiatric counselling.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Jesper Krogsgaard otherwise known as Xanares, whose site you can find here, has come up with this cool 'flash carousel'. These are works in progress so maybe check later for updates.

Now this is certainly something I want on my Virgin website, when I finally get round to doing something about it (I used to use Frontpage but that's gone now I have a new computer).

The Technician Review -- Walker of Worlds

Nice review here from Mark Chitty over at Walker of Worlds.

The Technician is Neal Asher's latest novel and marks the completion of my resolution to get up to date on all of his releases. I've not done too badly, this being the fifth book of his I've got through since January, each being just as enjoyable as the previous one. I'm actually quite glad I've done it this way, especially as much of what happens in The Technician relates to the Cormac series, mainly the events in The Line of Polity which is set on the same planet. I thoroughly enjoyed completing the Cormac series and was eager to once again see what was happening in the Polity, but Neal didn't meet my expectations. He exceeded them.

The Amazon link is here and Book Depository (free shipping worldwide) is here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bob Lock's Daughter

I picked up on this on Facebook and Bob emailed me too. I found it difficult to think of a reply that didn't sound trite. I don't know how a parent gets over something like this, but then many do, they have to.
Fucking cancer.

On Writing: Look!

Jack looked across at her with a pensive look on his face.
‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ he said.
‘It looked like a ghost,’ she replied, then looking past him she cried, ‘Look out!’

I was about to write that the above is a huge exaggeration of my long-time love affair with the utility of the word ‘look’ but, having spent some time editing The Parasite, I’m not so sure it is. This was one tendency of mine that my editor Peter Lavery picked up on, and it’s one that displays the differences between the three vocabularies. You have your reading, writing and speaking vocabularies which, respectively, are in descending order of size. There were of course many words other than ‘look’ I could have used. All of them were sitting there in my reading vocabulary, but I just wasn’t using them.

It seemed to come as a revelation to me that someone might ‘peer, gaze, glance, stare or peek’ at something, or that they might ‘watch, study, observe or regard’ something, or that there were alternatives to ‘look like’ or ‘looked like’. I could go on and on but any of you reading this in the hope of picking up a tip or two are all probably using Word and have access to a thesaurus. Highlight ‘look’ and take a look at scrutinize the many alternative words that are available.

But of course that is not enough. Words like this are those we are often blind to, so we need to either pore over our work anew, or have someone else take a look at it examine it. Our words need to be closely inspected, contemplated and studied. ‘Look’ is useful, but does it have the nuance of meaning of the alternatives? Does it have the gravitas of ‘regard’, the brevity of ‘glance’, the myopia of ‘peer’ or the analytical inference of ‘study’?

Note: Generally you don’t have your character ‘peer’ at the one he’s deeply in love with, or ‘gaze’ at the plans to the bank vault he’s about to raid, and he doesn’t ‘examine’ the view … unless of course you’re trying to twist and tweak something, or maybe work in some character-building. The half-blind lover might peer. The inept bank robber might gaze (probably with bafflement) at those vault plans. And the cold military commander might examine the view.

Here’s a suggestion: take a paragraph of your work and go through it word by word checking it against your thesaurus. I bet you will find at least one word you would like to change – one word that adds meaning by simple replacement.

Jack gazed across at her, his expression pensive.
‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ he said.
‘It seemed like a ghost,’ she replied, then glancing past him she cried, ‘Watch out!’

5 Desert Island Reads -- Hitch

Firstly, oh my god this is hard! Five isn't enough! I just hope the rest of my books somehow float my way.

Ok. My five, based on re-readabilty, memories and keeping my sanity whilst I survive on Coconut Vodka and Banana Daiquiris:

1) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Ironic, Witty, Hilarious, Genius. A book and a tale I have read and listenned to for many years wrote by a man who once shook my hand and made me very nearly find religion, though perhaps not the kind that Pope dude would enjoy! I have read the entire series so many times I cannot count the number and it is the #1 choice for me if stuck on a desert island.

2) Ender's Game. Some love it, some hate it. I adore it and find the personalities and social ingenuity involved, brilliant. Like all the books here, it make my brain come alive and see IMAX in my head. I first read it fairly recently, Emma had it and I'd heard of it but never read it. Then I moved to her place and slowly worked my way around her bookcase and found, for me, and instant classic.

3) Gridlinked. Has to be that one. I love Cowl, I love The Skinner and the rest but to me Gridlinked is the best. It was my introduction to Neal and was right down my alley with its license to kill Agent Cormac. A thrill ride all the way with enough sub plots and twists to make me read over and over. This one I would read when I started to feel my first dose of apathy, to kick start me back into surviving.

4) Battlefield Earth. I know, I know, and I do not care. The author was a complete nut job, this is now certain. The writing isn't even that good and is very simplistic and child like in parts but its one of the first 'proper' Sci-Fi books I read as I got older and I fucking love it. In my opinion only the Revelation Space series has come close to the epic scope of humanity this book offers. Everytime I read it my childhood comes back and I dream of Flash Gordon.

5) Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. The GF hates this book, with a passion, one that I cannot understand. In terms of writing this is, to me, the best book I have ever read. The alternate past in which it lives is one I dearly wish was the real one. I don't tend to enjoy 'fantasy' books but then again I don't rate this as fantasy. Its about magic, yes, but more than that, its about the Magicians and once I pick this up I cannot fail to read from the miniscule starts to the fatalistic ends of the key characters. My only regret is that Susanna Clarke seems to be a one hit wonder, but then again it means I don't have to sneak another book onto the island!

I will say this. If ever stranded on an island with just these five books, I would survive, partly due to them. I would also be found crying at night over everything else I had to leave behind and missed, a lot of those tears would be over Clarke, Reynolds, Gaiman, Pratchett... Oh god, the list is endless.

/me waves to a passing ship and begs a look at the library.


No Smoking Day!

It being 'no smoking day' today my first reaction was to roll myself a nice Old Holborn rollie and puff away contentedly. Luckily for them I'm not going anywhere today so won't encounter any of the righteous pricks who are pushing this. Any requests to stub it out would have been immediately acceded to, right in the eye of the one asking.

Dick Puddlecote puts it better than me:

What we really need, of course, is a 'Keep Your Big Fat Interfering Nose Out Of Other People's Business Day', but there's no cash for fake charities in that idea.

Borders in Wellington

One here from Rob Clubley out of Borders in Wellington New Zealand. They're still running? Here's Rob's blog and website.

Five years ago Caroline and I took a trip to New Zealand. We wandered around Christchurch to eventually find a book shop with a nice stack of my books. I signed them, and signed a wall in the shop covered with author signatures. I have to wonder if that wall is still standing.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Kindle Kimota

Graeme Hurry's Kimota was one of the many small press magazines in which my stories were published, in the days before I was a fat, rich and famous author. The short stories of mine he published are Alternative Hospital, Gurnard, The Torbeast's Prison, Tiger Tiger and the original booklet of the Mason's Rats stories. Now he's publishing Kimota on Kindle - this issue containing Alternative Hospital and stories from other Kimota authors.

You can find it here.

Monday, March 07, 2011

5 Desert Island Reads -- Rob Dalby

Hi Neal

It's proved incredibly difficult to cut this down to five, and since two of the five would have been yours (The Skinner and The Technician) I decided to arbitrarily exclude your stuff in order to not look too much like I was blowing smoke up your you-know what..

Others bubbling under the top five would be David Brin's Brightness Reef (representing it's trilogy), The Illium and Olympos duet by Dan Simmons (as well as his The Terror which I think is Sci-Fi for reasons too complicated to go into here) and Chris Wooding's Retribution Falls.

Anyway, on to the five.

The Integral Trees by Larry Niven.
One of Larry's lesser known works (along with it's sequel The Smoke Ring) and from the period when he was arguably past his best, but for me the story of Sharls Davis Kendy, Checker of the starship Discipline, keeping his ancient watching brief shows that Niven's huge imagination was still as fertile as ever, with it's description of a long-lost society of humans growing up among the bizarre vegetation and creatures of a gas torus.

The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
To some extent this is representing it's three siblings (Hyperion, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion) but this one is my favourite of the four. Simmons has a remarkable talent in creating an entire , fully realised, civilisation within a single novel where others might take a whole sequence to get to the same amount of detail, and the world of the Hegemony of Man is one which we would love to live in, at least until we find there is a worm buried in the apple. It's crammed with breath-taking vignettes, and I've been haunted by the final choice of Hegemony CEO Meina Gladstone since I first read the book getting on for 20 years ago.

Helliconia by Brian Aldiss
Perhaps cheating a little here, but my version of The Grand Old Man of British Sci-fi's best work has all three volumes of the Heliconia cycle in one book, so I am having it as one of my five. There is a wonderful sense of momentum - the slow tumbling cycle of history, in the complex dance of the two stars of the Heliconia system and the effects the resulting centuries-long seasons have on the fortunes of the two sentient species of the world. There are discomforting parallels (for me) between the way our society seems to be developing and the parallel story of the deteriorating Human mission to Heliconia observing the planet below from their space station.

Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
For me the mark of great Sci-FI is to create so compelling a world that as soon as you put down the book you want to know what happens next - want to go back there. I'd hate to think that Reynolds might not revisit the remarkable society of the Terminal World, which he leaves with many questions unanswered. Much of the pleasure in the book comes from following the clues Reynolds leaves as to the real nature of the world he is describing.

Surface Detail by Iain M Banks
A return to form for Banks, whose sci-fi output has been (for me at least) disappointing of late. I read it in one sitting while crossing the Atlantic in a B747, and the wonderful twist at the end, dropped in so gently it feels like an afterthought, more than made up for the six hour delay in leaving London. It's always great to visit the Culture (another society we'd surely love to live in - and for me a sort of mirror image of the Polity) and Banks has excelled in creating another in his long line of memorable villains and slightly punchable sort-of-heroes.

Anyway, that's the top five, at least for today. Probably be completely different by tomorrow



Sunday, March 06, 2011

Publishing a Kindle Book

Well, I've taken a little look at it all. Initially it seemed that the 70% rate was a load of bollocks because when searching you mostly come up with 35%. However, further searches (thanks Geoff Lynas) reveal that there is a 70% rate for certain regions, and most importantly for me they are UK, USA and Canada. It's also the case that there is a 'shipping charge' of $0.15 X number of megabytes and a 15% VAT rate (though when and where that's applied I'm not sure).

Another thing putting me off was finding pages with all sorts of instructions about loading the books in HTML or plain text but, on checking, I found that the Word 'doc' format is supported. Just to check all this out I signed up (here) with my Amazon ID and finding that there's a 'draft' setting I loaded up my novella The Parasite and, sure enough, I can take a look at how it will look on a Kindle and it's fine.

The only drawback here for me is that this is all (please correct me if I'm wrong) on Amazon.com and, because its US, any payments I get will have to be by cheque rather than direct to my bank account. Then again, if the cheques turn up promptly I've no problem. I do wonder what the minimum amount is before a cheque can be sent.

Okay, I am now going to rework The Parasite and give it a go. When it's up for sale I'll let you know how it all goes.

The Culture Show on BBC2.

This, over on Disco Stu's blog made me chuckle. I'm always one for trying to see what's on the shelves to the rear of shots on TV, or I study those shelves in pictures in magazines. Unfortunately I missed this one.


Incidentally, besides 1984, has anyone seen any sign of science fiction books being dicussed on TV during this purported year of books?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

To Kindle or not to Kindle

I just received this email from ‘Xanares’, which is interesting and certainly food for a lot of thought:

Hey there Neal,

Thought you might be interested in this one. It's about (an) independent writer's success publishing novels on Amazon Kindle. It's of course Vampire fiction (I know I know sigh), but it goes to tell that at least some parts of the writing industry are on their way towards the same business-idea that parts of the gaming industry have been playing with for a while now:

"Welcome to disruption. 26-year old Amanda Hocking is the best-selling "indie" writer on the Kindle store, meaning she doesn't have a publishing deal, Novelr says.

And she shouldn't. She gets to keep 70% of her book sales -- and she sells around 100,000 copies per month. By comparison, it's usually thought that it takes a few tens of thousands of copies sold in the first week to be a New York Times bestselling writer."

Admittedly she’s selling some of her books for just $1 to $3 each but, if you average that then consider that percentage above, she gets more than I get on a damned paperback or even hardback. I will have to carefully consider any future contracts I sign, I think.

Xanares concludes his email with: For us old romantic book-sniffers it's odd, but hey… science fiction is here.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Peter Watts Necrotizing

Peter Watts, author of the superb Blindsight and the pretty shit hot Starfish, Maelstrom and Behemoth, has NOT been having a good time. Last year he was getting roughed up by border police and now he has something called necrotizing fasciitis. Do not click on this link if you are squeamish. Seriously.

Best wishes to you Peter, and get someone to put a harpoon in that vicious fucking gremlin that keeps following you around.

His blog is here. Avoid the 'Moving Pictures' post if you want to enjoy your lunch.

And go and buy his books. You won't regret it.

Before They Are Hanged -- Joe Abercrombie

Okay, Joe Abercrombie has got me. I’ll keep buying his books so long as he keeps producing excellent tales like this. Before They Are Hanged is easy reading full of enjoyable characters that change in ways you like to see them change, throughout a stonking story. The subtext added by the torturer Glokta’s thoughts as he carries out his ‘duties’ raises a chuckle at such (understandable) cynicism. I enjoy Luthar’s climb out of naivety and Logen’s pragmatic wisdom, and I love every one of the other northern ‘named men’ who have already crept up into the region of legend in my mind: Black Dow, Dogman, Harding Grim, Threetrees and Tul Duru Thunderhead. Honestly, reading this book has made me realize that I didn’t go off fantasy over the last couple of decades, I just wasn’t getting hold of any of the good stuff.

This is the good stuff.

Incidentally, his blog is worth a look too.

Waterstones - Swansea

Here's a couple of nice ones from Richard P John.

Okay, these are starting to get a bit samey. Time for you all to get (as in a previous picture) some of the staff posing in front of the shelves!

My Hidden Shallows

Huan Tan put me onto a discussion about me over on this bulletin board. There are some nice things being said about my stuff there but also some of the usual ‘it’s not literature’ and ‘it’s not high-brow’ and ‘it’s a bit pulpy’. In a general sense I don’t particularly have a problem with these descriptions, since ‘literature’ and ‘high-brow’ are usually defined by literary snobs and ‘a bit pulpy’, from what I know about the pulps, is something of an accolade. However, I do get bugged by their condescension and that attitude of, ‘I enjoy reading them but don’t want to be seen reading them’.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to change any time soon. I don’t want one of you reading this to one day pick up one of my books, ready to relax into some sensawunda, weapons porn, weird monsters and high-tech violence, and end up scratching your head because I’ve decided to explore the deep social implications of cock-transplant technology – as seen by a miserable can’t-get-laid psychology student living in a garret.

But I do wonder if I’d started out claiming to write deeply meaningful socially relevant stuff about the effect of technology on identity, the meaning of death when its borders are blurred and the drawbacks of immortality, if the memes about me would have been different. Perhaps, for example, in interview and so forth, I should have focused on how with the Prador I was exploring the implications of a social structure based on utterly alien biology, rather than on their tendency to eat people and blow stuff up? Perhaps I should have pontificated about the subjective contraction of time in the mind of an immortal, rather than on how an old captain can rip off your head?

Now, removing my tongue from my cheek, I wonder if perhaps it is the case that if I fob people off with, ‘Nah, I’m just about the explosions, mate,’ many of them won’t explore my hidden shallows any further?

What do you think?