Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Carter of Mars

Well, I watched John Carter with mixed reactions. It was visually gorgeous with its landscapes, cities and weird flying machines (which bore some resemblance to the things in Cowboys and Aliens) and the creatures were spot on. I loved the Tharks which often seemed to be better actors than the humans and the star of the show had to be Woola which, but for the fact it was a six-legged amphibian, was the spit of a Staffordshire bull terrier my brother once owned. At times I also got a bit of a lump in my throat because this was John Carter of Mars from the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs which were some of those that introduced me to science fiction.

However, I didn’t like the interplay between Carter and Deja Thoris. I felt the urge to giggle inanely and hide my face in embarrassment. I found them both unconvincing and frankly feel that the arch baddy would have been better cast as Carter, while the princess was just eye-candy. A lot of the acting seemed B-movie and flat, but then that might also be down to the directing.

The jumping was plain silly – yes Carter had Earth muscles and was stronger etc. but him jumping half a mile while carrying someone was ridiculous. Now, I can’t remember how that was in the books and it might well have been some of the silliness of them coming through… Also, were metal and stone somehow weaker on Mars? I can’t remember.

Did the books have too many faults that could not easily transfer to the modern age? Were they in themselves just too silly and dated? I don’t think so. I live in an age when fiction from my formative years is appearing on the screen with the required CGI. I still think the first new Spiderman movie is great, Conan the Barbarian couldn’t have been better and better cast (I read the Robert E. Howard books about the same time as I was reading the Carter books) and Lord of the Rings left me gob-smacked. 

I did enjoy this film, but would I have enjoyed it without the nostalgic connection in my mind? In the end, without that connection, it would have been a film consigned to the category ‘it was okay’ which, of course, is not the result you’re after when you spend 200 million. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Zero Point Mock Ups

Just as a matter of interest, here are some mock ups of the Zero Point cover. These are roughs (shit I couldn't produce perfected artwork like this) by Jon Sullivan. What do you think?

Also, take a look at this beauty.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tor Books Blog

Tor Books has a blog over here for anyone interested in keeping up with what they're producing. The most recent post is about Zero Point.

‘Fast, furious, violent, slightly tongue-in-cheek (I think), and a whole lot of fun that makes 1984 seem like a children’s tea party, with a great cover from regular artist Jon Sullivan . . . Go on, dive in, you won’t be disappointed’
 British Fantasy Society
‘Asher is brilliant at conveying the vastness of deep space . . . and the sweep of planetary horizons’
‘Rail-guns rattle off, pulse rifles fire out shots and explosions ring out. This is what Asher does best’
‘Action packed and thrilling, The Departure is a must for all fans of contemporary science fiction who haven’t experienced Asher’s visceral novels before’
We Love This Book

I Wii on my Blood Pressure...

Interesting: I’m 51, I smoke and often drink more than the government’s silly recommended limits. On January 1st after Christmas excesses my blood pressure was at 144/90 which, if you check the graph below, you’ll see is getting dodgy. As is our custom we knocked drinking on the head throughout January and after that just found ourselves disinclined to drink as much as we had been before (the hangovers just get worse and worse).

About mid-February a brief exchange with someone we know, who bought a Wii after hearing us singing its praises, reminded us about that device, which we hadn’t used since coming back from Crete. At Caroline’s instigation we started using it again, dancing to various songs for half an hour a day. This half hour, every time, has resulted in me with my shirt off while a drip sweat. At about this point, probably because of January’s abstinence, my BP was 136/87. Ten days later it was down to 131/75. Now, a month after we started in on this, it is at 124/79.

Of course BP readings can change all the time and you need to take a lot more readings than I have been taking and average out, but there’s definitely been a downward trend. It’ll be great if it continues on down until both diastolic and systolic are both in the green area. Perhaps to get there I need to shed the extra stone I’m carrying…

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Starship Sofa

Heh, I never spotted this picture before. It's from Starship Sofa and the audio version of my short story The Gurnard. To the right you have Erlin (of Spatterjay fame) in the background you have one of the carnivorous sheep, and the hero, Sirus Beck, having disposed of one of the bad guys, is carrying the Gurnard itself in that fish bowl.

Other audio versions of my stories can also be found. Here you can find Adaptogenic. And here over at Escape Pod you can find Acephalous Dreams and The Veteran.

That's not forgetting that The Skinner, The Voyage of the Sable Keech and Orbus can be obtained from Audible.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Chapter Break

 After working backwards through Jupiter War I next worked through it forwards again and at last it was time to send it off. ‘Sending off time’ arrives not when I feel I’ve finished a book, but when I realize I’m starting to make changes out of boredom with text I’ve read just too many times. So, today I sent off Jupiter War to Macmillan.

I was undecided about what to do next, whether to write synopses and blurbs or just get back to the Penny Royal thing. I decided on the former because Jupiter War is still clear in my mind. I was going to describe the process I use for this, but we’ve been there before. Anyway, at 5.30 I now have a 3,000 word rough synopsis (six pages), which I will tidy up and from which I will produce a one-page synopsis. From this, I will then produce a selection of blurbs – exciting descriptions of the book that don’t give the game away. I can then dust off my hands with satisfaction, and go back to Penny Royal. Of course it’s not all over. Peter Lavery or some other editor will attack it with a pencil, a couple of copy edits will come my way too…

Right, I am now feeling quite smug as I sip a glass of red wine prior to enjoying a nice curry. It’s a brief stop along the way, a page or chapter break, but I’ll be back at the keyboard soon enough. I sometimes try to envision stopping, or retiring, but that’s for those who don’t enjoy their jobs. The morticians will have to lever my cold dead fingers from the keyboard, I think.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

USA Rights to the Owner Trilogy

Okay, Night Shade Books has made an offer for the US rights for all three titles in the Owner trilogy: The Departure, Zero Point and Jupiter War. The rights are for a trade hardback, trade paperback, mass-market paperback and e-book. They would like to publish the first book in February 2013, following that up with Zero Point in May or June 2013, with the third one coming out simultaneously with the Macmillan edition. They’ll also be taking on the Jon Sullivan covers in some form.

Night Shade Books, incidentally, previously published Prador Moon and Shadow of the Scorpion in America. When I first sent in Prador Moon to them they were a small press publisher (basically just Jason Williams and Jeremy Lassen) but now, after a number of hiccups (due to that being ‘victims of their own success'), they’ve grown substantially. Let’s hope they do a good job of this!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Not much in the way of actual writing being done at the moment since I’m reading backwards through Jupiter War. I read one paragraph at a time working backwards through the book. This way I don’t get involved in the story and am more likely to pick up on mistakes (many of you reading this have of course read this before). Another thing this technique helps me pick up is repetitions and the boring bits – the latter are doubly emphasised because reading backwards through a typescript is boring enough in itself. I’ve been finding myself putting the words CUT THIS DOWN or THIN THIS OUT on a few occasions, in red ink, underlined.

I’m doing this with the printed typescript, marking in corrections as I go, then I’ll work through it again from the start as I make the corrections to the document on my computer. After that it’ll be time to send it in to Macmillan, followed either by a return to the Penny Royal thing or time spent writing up the synopses and blurbs for Jupiter War. I haven’t decided yet.

Today, however, even less work is being done, since we went to see Woman in Black. The John Carter movie we’ll save for next week – a film I’m a little dubious about having read this review from John C. Wright. What else? Oh yeah, I should be getting a phone call from the US publisher of the Owner series tomorrow night so I should be able to give you some more news on that anon. That’s all for now.  

It's the Population, Stupid.

There’s quite a bit on the news about a hose pipe ban in the East of England and I cannot help but note how the elephant in the room is being ignored (or, read The Departure).

Over just the last 20 years I’ve seen our local town of Maldon expand hugely, acquiring a suburban belt half a mile thick with its superstores, roads and other facilities. This is just one example of what has been happening across large swathes of this country yet, I don’t recollect hearing much about reservoirs being dug (though we do get nimby-ism resulting in this).  

We must also remember how people’s habits have changed since the middle of the last century when the weekly bath, shared by the family, was common. How many showers are pouring every day now, how many washing machines and dish washers churning, how many flush toilets operating? Consider how much water one person now uses each day, which can range from 50 to 150 litres, and multiply that by millions. And consider that the population of London alone is getting on for 8 million.

Another question to ask is where does the rain we do get go? With so much ground now covered with concrete and tarmac it runs off, into drains then into rivers and out to sea. This is also the cause of many of the floods the media have been getting hysterical about in recent years. You may see some old town or village getting submerged, but don’t just blame the weather, blame the housing estates and cities upstream preventing water soaking away and thus passing the buck downstream. Put a waterproof layer over the land and water runs off quickly and, surprise surprise, the land dries up.    

Yes, we have had a couple of dry winters, but they are not the main problem. The problem is infrastructure failing to keep up; infrastructure right at the limit where it fails under just a little extra strain. And of course, it’s the population, stupid.  

Friday, March 09, 2012

Zero Point

Here we go. Here's the finished cover of Zero Point:

The billions of Zero Asset citizens of Earth are free from their sectors, free from the prospect of extermination from orbit, for Alan Saul has all but annihilated the Committee by dropping the Argus satellite laser network on it. The shepherds, spiderguns and razorbirds are somnolent, govnet is down and Inspectorate HQs are smoking craters. But power abhors a vacuum and, scrambling from the ruins, comes Serene Galahad. She must act before the remnants of Committee power are overrun by the masses. And she has the means.

Var Delex knows that Earth will eventually reach out to Antares Base and, because of her position under Chairman Messina, knows that the warship the Alexander is still available. An even more immediate problem is Argus Station hurtling towards the red planet, with whomever, or whatever trashed Earth still aboard. Var must maintain her grip on power and find a way for them all to survive.

As he firmly establishes his rule, Alan Saul delves into the secrets of Argus Station: the results of ghastly experiments in Humanoid Unit Development, a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight and research that might unlock eternity. But the agents of Earth are still determined to exact their vengeance, and the killing is not over...


Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Okay, while in Chester I obviously didn’t keep up my word count and prior to that I was checking the final sheets of Zero Point so now, after ten working days of not doing any writing, I must get back into it. Yesterday I was still knackered. I could put that down to the unaccustomed walking we did but I suspect the heavy red wine consumption played its part too. This post, by the way, is me warming up my mental motor.

So where am I? The Penny Royal thing now stands at 77,604 words, at (about) chapter 10 of 20. I still haven’t reached the initial piece I wrote – it getting perpetually pushed ahead of the growing text that started out as back story and is turning into a book by itself. This, incidentally, is a meeting between one of the main characters and the drone Amistad. When I do reach this it will have to be completely revised, if not completely dumped (rather like the section I posted on the message board workshop, which I dropped when I redacted The Voyage of the Sable Keech). Now it’s time for me to reread the last chapter, insert another chapter break, and just get on.

What else? I’m sitting on a computer chair that keeps tipping over since, when leaning over to peer out the window yesterday, I managed to snap off one of the caster feet (I’ve ordered a new steel base for it through ebay, superglue having lasted about 5 seconds). My waffling about Mars has now appeared on SF Signal. I’ve finished my morning reading, which consisted of 14 science articles. I’m still waiting for a pdf or jpeg of the cover of Zero Point so I can post it here. And I’ve heard no more about the possibility of the whole Owner trilogy being published in America.

Right – to work.  

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


We took a train to Chester on Friday, neither Caroline nor I particularly liking driving there, and it was a quick and easy journey. Also, for no immediately apparent reason it was cheaper to travel by train there than it was to go to Brighton. Go figure. Here are a few photos of that city.

We went to see my brother Bob, sister-in-law Christine and their two daughters Samantha and Rebecca. Here’s Christine, Bob and Caroline.

Here’s the Waterstones I visited. On seeing that they only had four of my books there I wasn’t going to bother to ask if they wanted them signed, but relented. The girl working behind the counter then took a number of books out of a display alcove and put my signed copies up in it, along with my book marks, so it was worth it.

The whole break involved an awful lot a walking, which I’m still recovering from. I think my body went into a kind of shock after the first five miles, which could only be relieved later on by copious red wine. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Owner Trilogy

Well, no real announcement yet, but it appears the Owner trilogy – The Departure, Zero Point and Jupiter War – might be being taken on by an American publisher. If this does happen then all complaints about not being able to get hold of the ebook over there may well be resolved.

It'll be interesting to see if the American reaction to this is as sharply divided. I suspect not, since the political left and right over there supposedly occupy a different position on the fallacious political scale to here. 

Righto, off to Chester today so it'll be a quiet here.