Thursday, November 29, 2012

Minimum Pricing on Alcohol

So, Cameron is a nannying statist who wants to stick a minimum price on alcohol per unit. What on Earth is he thinking? Does he think that this will result in fewer pavement pizzas and fat slags crying in the gutter on a Saturday night? Does he think there’ll be less violence on the streets after chucking out time on a Friday and less chaos in A & E over the weekend? If he does think that then he’s an idiot because the people responsible for that drink in bars where the price is already way above his damned 45p a unit.


Does he think that £2 on the price for a bottle of vodka is going to stop an alcoholic buying it? Does he think that ‘problem drinkers’ are going to alter their life styles because their weekly booze bill has gone up by ten or twenty quid? Well, maybe they will, maybe they won’t be getting the latest X-box, flat screen TV or maybe their kids will start outgrowing their clothes because, you can be damned sure that habitual drinkers will sacrifice other spending rather than the habit. Does he think that banning supermarket deals on wine, like three for a tenner or three for the price of two is going to do any more than piss off people who drink at home and cause no trouble at all?

Does he not realize that black marketeers – the same ones most smokers buy their tobacco from now – will be rubbing their hands together in glee? Has he, with his wonderful Eton education, not heard of Prohibition? Or was he too hung over after a night out getting pissed and trashing restaurants with the Bullingdon club to take that particular lesson in?

Really, it’s about time Cameron found his natural home in the Labour Party. There’s a place for him there, since that party doesn’t have a leader. Not that he’s much of a leader but I’m sure they could always find room for another advertising executive.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Penny Royal III Started

Well, checking my journal I see that I began writing Penny Royal II on the 19th of July and finished it to first draft on 27th November so, four months, one week and one day. Of course I haven’t completely finished it just as I haven’t completely finished Penny Royal I. Right now I have to go back to that first book to write in some stuff about a world due to be swallowed by a black hole to make some other stuff in Penny Royal III work. I also have alter a particular character all the way through – in this case an assassin drone fashioned in the shape of a prador parasite (I’ve mentioned Riss before – this drone looks like a translucent cobra with a third eye on top of its head, small limbs underneath that head and an ovipositor in its tail). Similar alterations will ensue as I write Penny Royal III (I’m a thousand words in at the moment) and thereafter will come loads of editing before I send these books to Macmillan, then a couple of more rounds of editing after I get it back.

This picture is here because this is what Penny Royal sometimes looks like. I was going to tray a mish-mash of this and the Curiosity Rover confronting each other, but don't have the time. Hey, if anyone fancies mucking about with an art program I’d love to see a picture of Penny Royal in some alien landscape. Just to help in that respect (and to tease you all):

The buy was going down, badly, because the shits involved had decided that their large amounts of weaponry gave them a bargaining advantage. It was all about to turn into a nasty fire fight when the other side’s repairman turned up, and then it turned into a nightmare. The meet had been in a valley on a heavy gravity world where plants grew iron hard and close to the ground and where most humans wore motorized suits. Blite, as he prepared himself to give the order blow the sled the thrall tech sat on, and open fire, had looked up. On the ridge above, a flower had bloomed: a giant black thistle head atop a stalk of braided silver snakes. He stared at it in shock as, like a slow black explosion it came apart, its individual spikes turning as they sped away to point down into the valley, all settling to hang still in the air – a wall of daggers woven through with silver lace.
‘Penny Royal!’ one of the opposition called, gazing at Blite with a superior smile.

But before all of that there’s other work to be done, like going through the copy edits of the Night Shade Books version of The Departure. And, of course, here’s a reminder  

Night Shade Books are publishing The Owner Trilogy in the US and have scheduled The Departure for publication Feb 5, 2013 with Zero Point following May 7, 2013 and Jupiter War  September 3, 2013 (catching up with publication of that last book in Britain). Nicely keying into that my short story The Other Gun will be appearing in Asimov’s April/May issue that year with, of course, mention of these books in attached biog. It should be an interesting year with those three books slamming into the American market in rapid succession. In essence this should work as quite a profile-raising exercise.

So, where was I going with this? Oh yeah: it may have taken me just over four months to get Penny Royal II to first draft, but please don’t start expecting me to produce 3 books a year. In fact, if I do start finding myself at a bit of a loose end I’ll be producing more stories like the one in Asimov’s above, or maybe taking a look at my old fantasy trilogy. Or I may even take a holiday!

Monday, November 26, 2012

New vaccine may give lifelong protection from flu - health - 25 November 2012 - New Scientist

New vaccine may give lifelong protection from flu - health - 25 November 2012 - New Scientist


Trial RNA vaccines have failed, however, after being destroyed rapidly in the blood. But CureVac, a company in Tübingen, Germany, has found that a protein called protamine, binds to mRNA and protects it. It has an mRNA vaccine against prostate and lung cancer tumours in human trials.


A true universal vaccine for fluMovie Camera, however, would induce immunity to proteins that are the same in all flu viruses, but which flu normally hides from the immune system. Stitz's team made an mRNA vaccine to one such protein from an ordinary seasonal flu. The vaccine not only protected animals from that flu strain, but also from H5N1 bird flu.

Like, wow.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cyborg Asher

About three years ago I realized that my eyes were no longer perfect and that when the light was bad I needed reading glasses. I started off at about +1.00 but have since progressed (or rather regressed) to +2.50. Then, at the start of this year (or maybe the end of last) I noticed that when looking at the DVD player I could see it clearly through one eye but it was a blur through the other. In February I duly went to an optician for the first time and ended up with prescription glasses for reading and was told I was border-line for driving. This was no fun at all.

Now, Caroline was very short-sighted, so much so in fact that she couldn’t read signs in the high street without glasses. She had laser eye surgery to correct this and now just needs reading glasses. I was therefore attracted to the idea of  having similar surgery myself at least to equalize my eyes so I only need the kind of reading glasses you can pick up for a few quid just about anywhere, so I booked a free consultation at Ultralase to find out what could be done.

It turns out I now have a nicely miss-matched pair of eyes. Sitting at this computer screen I can see the text fairly clearly with my left eye, but through my right eye it is blurred. Conversely, if I sit watching the TV I can read the numerals on the DVD player with my right eye but it’s a blur through my left. Now I have choices. If I have my left eye sorted by laser my distance vision will be fine but I’ll need reading glasses. If I have my right eye done I’ll need glasses for distance (driving and the like) but not for reading. But there’s another choice.

I’d heard that there are now treatments for presbyopia (needing reading glasses as you get older) but couldn’t figure how shaping the cornea for that worked at the other range of your vision. I was then told that perhaps the best for me would be IOLs – intra-ocular lenses. These are usually used in cataract operations but in the past basically had one setting so you could have your distance vision but would need reading glasses. Now, however, they have multi-focus IOLs. I was very wary, but according to the blurbs I’ve read, 80% of people that have these require no glasses at all. It also turns out that the operation is 25 minutes per eye, no stitches and an added advantage is that I’ll never get cataracts.

I’ve made an appointment to see the surgeon to get some more gen and I’ve been reading about this operation on the internet. I may well decide to go for it. Firstly because of the high probability of getting my vision back and secondly, well, a science fiction writer who is also a cyborg?  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cellweld - TM

In my books I often do surgical scenes in which cell welders and bone welders are used. It seems to me that I can now properly describe and extrapolate that technology. But of course now I must think in terms of reprinting missing limbs and organs, or even reprinting an entire body. Growing such stuff in the good old sfnal amniotic tank is old now.

The 2D structures being printed with the bio-ink enables exquisite control over cell distribution and this already presents exciting opportunities to improve drug screening and toxicology testing processes. Building on this, 3D bio-printing, with which patient-specific tissue replacements could be fabricated, is within the grasp of researchers.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Technician Review

He had a good crack at it...

Earth Girl - Janet Edwards

2788. Only the handicapped live on Earth. While everyone else portals between worlds, 18-year-old Jarra is among the one in a thousand people born with an immune system that cannot survive on other planets. Sent to Earth at birth to save her life, she has been abandoned by her parents. She can’t travel to other worlds, but she can watch their vids, and she knows all the jokes they make. She’s an ‘ape’, a ‘throwback’, but this is one ape girl who won’t give in. But can she prove to the norms that she’s more than just an Earth Girl?

I’m not entirely sure why but I found an uncorrected proof copy of Earth Girl in the pile of post waiting for me when we got back from Crete. Noting that it was ‘young adult’ I was a bit reluctant, but then I had a go anyway. It’s told in first-person, is easy reading which, for obvious reasons, rather reminds me of the ‘Twilight’ books, and I enjoyed it. This I reckon would be the perfect gift for teenage relative you want set on the slippery slope to the damnation of enjoying science fiction. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Early Start

Sometimes I wish my mind had an off switch and other times I’m grateful that it doesn’t. The first case applies when I’m worrying about something, wake up at three in the morning and lie there fretting and churning over things that would have looked better in the morning after a  good night’s sleep. The usual result of this is me managing to get to sleep – usually after getting up and having a cup of tea – at about five in the morning, then waking up a few hours after that feeling like crap. Then there are those other insomnia moments.

I’ve been getting a little bit stuck with the latest book, writing, deleting changing sections and trying to make it work properly. I woke up and started thinking about this and it at once appeared that during my brief sleep my subconscious has been doing some heavy lifting. I got up (this morning I woke at about 3.30 and got up half an hour later) and I started writing stuff down. Things that previously seemed vague to me had begun to come clear. Yes, I had backed myself into a corner there so change that section and delete that section, write-in the POV of that character and lose that one. Go through the entire book, and the book before, and completely change another character.

By this time I’d finished my second cup of tea it was 5.45 AM. What to do next? From previous experience I knew that if I went back to bed I would wake up feeling like crap, my mind sluggish, and what had seemed clear to me before would not be so clear then. I took a shower and now, as I write this it’s 6.20 AM and, once I’ve finished this sentence, to work!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Honest Trailers - Prometheus

Yeah, that about covers it.

Compass Books

Sent on Twitter by Geoff Utley from Compass Books in San Francisco Airport. Chris - presumably the guy in the photo - loves my work.

So at this point it's worth reminding book buyers and readers in America:

Here’s an update on the news for my American readers. The people at Night Shade Books are looking forward to bringing The Owner Trilogy to print in the US and have scheduled The Departure for publication Feb 5, 2013 with Zero Point following May 7, 2013 and Jupiter WarSeptember 3, 2013 (catching up with publication of that last book in Britain). Nicely keying into that my short story The Other Gun will be appearing in Asimov’s April/May issue that year with, of course, mention of these books in attached biog. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cool Lasers

I’ve been reading a lot of science articles in the mornings as anyone who follows me on Twitter @nealasher or Facebook will be aware, but this one I have to put here.

As an SF writer you’re always in danger of being tripped up by the science geek who will point out your errors. Back in The Line of Polity (I think) I used ‘laser cooling’ for a space ship and someone – in a review I believe – dismissed this as a ridiculous idea.

In micro electronics heat often causes problems and engineers have to put a lot of technical effort into cooling, for example micro chips, to dissipate heat that is generated during operation. Austrian physicists have now suggested a concept for a laser that could be powered by heat. This idea may open a completely new way for cooling microchips.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Moore's Law for Batteries?

Most of you reading this have heard of Moore’s Law and most of you are familiar with the idea of the technological singularity and that Moore’s law is just one element on that exponential curve. Other elements include the steady reduction in cost of that computing. This in turn relates to the shrinking time and cost of decoding a genome … if you want to learn more about all that just head over to the Singularity Hub and do some reading, or watch a few Ray Kurzweil interviews.

But I’ve been thinking about batteries and other forms of power storage. We have exoskeletons now that enable the crippled to walk and, if you check out ‘Boston Dynamics’ on You Tube you’ll find some excellent robots. But these exoskeletons, even though they have FDA approval and are being trailed in America have unwieldy and short-lived power packs, while the robots you mostly see are running at the end of a power cable. We need smaller or more powerful batteries, super- and ultra-capacitors so, what I was wondering is, is there a Moore’s Law for batteries? Opinions vary:

Energy efficiencies have gotten pretty good…but the scary thing when you look at it from a capacity and efficiency standpoint with regard to weight and volume, it hasn’t really changed that much. It’s clearly improving, and I think costs have gotten a little bit better, but not all that much either. When you compare it with the electronics that we’re using it with and Moore’s Law, it’s basically standing still,”

...because there’s not currently a Moore’s Law for batteries, and I’m doubtful that we’re going to ever hit a Moore’s Law-style pace of accelerated progress and lowered costs for batteries. Yes, batteries will come down in price and become smaller, but at nowhere near the same speed — and with a lot less progress — as to be able to be compared to Moore’s Law.

Sure, the Moore’s Law of electric cars  – “the cost per mile of the electric car battery will be cut in half every 18 months” — will steadily drive the cost down, says Agassi, but only once we get scale production going. U.S. companies can do that on their own or in collaboration with Chinese ones. 

But I guess we have to remember what an exponential curve looks like and remember we might not be on the rapid up slope with batteries – on this one we might well be right down in the bottom left of that blue box.

What do you think?  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moscow Mule

Posted on my Facebook page by Keith McDade. So, if you're a long-time reader of my books, what word are you seeing here? More in comments...

Writing Update

I’ve just passed the 130,000 word mark on Penny Royal II but this last week I haven’t been hitting my target of 2,000 words a day. Generally it’s been at about 1500 a day, but in total. I’ve probably been writing more than 2,000 but deleting plenty too. About 1,000 words disappeared into my BitsSF file at the start of the week. While going through the text altering certain plot points I’ve been coming across bits that just do not need to be so complicated and hacking them down or deleting them. A new character put in an appearance then was quickly disappeared. And then there are those bits of text where the motor has been idling while a clear the ice off the windscreen – often rambling and sometimes repetitive – and they have to go too.

This slowing down process always happens with me at the end of a book. It’s the start of moving into the editorial phase. It’s also even more involved this time because I’m not only altering and deleting stuff in Penny Royal II but in Penny Royal I as well. It’s all very necessary because, near the end, I don’t want you skipping stuff because you’re thinking, ‘What the hell happened then?’ or the even worse, ‘Oh get on with it will you!’

And at the BBC...

I guess the fact that they were put through the mangle over cutting that program about Jimmy Saville led program makers to feel they had carte blanche on the next target. The complete lack of judgement kicked in as soon as they heard the words ‘Thatcher’ and ‘Tory’. All this was of course exacerbated by a complete lack of sensible oversight. Yeah, George Entwistle needed to resign because quite obviously he wasn’t worth his huge salary. But next a sharp knife is needed to cut out some of the diseased wood. It’s easy enough to spot – just check on who regularly buys the Guardian. No, strike that, it’s probably paid for out of our licence fee and then distributed free in Broadcasting House.

Oh, and I’m seeing twitters about how this is distracting from the child abuse. Do these people think that being accused of paedophilia isn’t abuse too?  

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Cutting Room Floor 1

While in the process of writing a book I occasionally reach a point where, having just written a large block of text, I decide, on reflection, I've been heading in the wrong direction. Sometimes this text is amenable to some heavy editing, and sometimes it just has to be cut out like a growing tumour. Thing is, I’m a bit of a hoarder, and am reluctant to throw something away I’ve spent work on. So, what I do is drop said block of text into a file called ‘BitsSF’. Sometimes I’ll go back to that file when I want to start something new, maybe a short story, another book, but not often.

Anyway, I just tweeted ‘Okay, so what shall I blog about now? Any bright ideas?’ whereupon a guy called Robert Annett replied, ‘What about some extracts from the cutting room floor?’ I do believe I’ve done this before, but it’s still a good idea. Here’s a small piece from BitsSF for you, warts an’ all:

The NEJ’s weapons carousel was much more complicated than the name implied. It spanned the nose of the ship between nacelles and not only offered up selected weapons to the various launchers within those nacelles, but was also an autofactory in itself. From this complex of packed moving machinery and shifting linked belts carrying the ship’s armament, Jack could select a variety of missiles and also customize them to specific purposes. Here there were also facilities to make entirely new weapons to the AI’s specifications. It was all either automated or utterly under Jack’s control. There was no room in there for human beings – they would have been minced by the machinery.
Standing in a corridor that ran beside the bulkhead to the rear of the carousels, Cormac glanced at Blegg and smiled.

More later.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


While we were in Crete I got an email from Jude Feldman who is the general manager at Borderland Books in San Francisco. A customer was trying to obtain a copy of Mindgames: Fool’s Mate. While I couldn’t provide Jude with said book I did let her know about the publication of The Departure, Zero Point and Jupiter War by Night Shade Books in America, told her how nice it was to see my books selling well in Borderlands (ego search of course) and in return received the nice email below:

Jude Feldman
General Manager
Borderlands Books
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco  CA 94110
415 824-8203

Glad to hear those titles will be coming from Nightshade!  We like working with them, they are local, and of course when they publish your books it is a lot faster for us to get them than when we have to import them from the UK.  As to our bestseller list, you are a frequent guest there.  Every time you have a new release, a dedicated group of customers (including the store's owner and several of our staff members) sets up what is essentially a vigil, checking with us every afternoon to see if the post (and therefore your new title) has arrived yet.  It's not quite a bank holiday when the books do arrive, but it might as well be, because at least a handful of those folks stay up all night reading and skip work the next day. 

There are only a small number of authors who inspire that kind of loyalty, so although it is completely understandable, it's pretty heartening for a bookseller to watch.

Thanks for your work.


Monday, November 05, 2012


Yesterday wasn’t a very good day. I managed to leave our freezer open all night and now it has apparently packed up, I dropped hot cigarette ash on a new blanket Caroline had bought in Crete, and then I had the horrible misfortune of watching Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.


What a spectacular failure this film was. It had many superbly cool elements in it that should have had the SF nerd in me squealing with delight, but unfortunately they were delivered with such a lack of coherence I started to lose the will to live about halfway in. This was a bad film and now I will talk about why I think it was bad so, if you haven’t seen it and haven’t noticed the spoiler warning above, stop reading now. And let me point out now before anyone offers explanations: yeah, I probably missed picking up on some of the exposition. That was because I failed to care.

Where to begin? How about starting with an octopus creature removed from a woman’s body by auto-surgery? This thing started off at about the size of a human fist and in a matter of hours grew into something the size of a car. Did it eat the auto-surgery? This was something that annoyed me in the original Alien film. I later discovered that the original script contained stuff about food stores being raided, but that 'detail' not appearing in the finished film was a fuck up.

Move on then to the female this thing was removed from. Apparently, along the way, she acquired super powers that enabled her to run like the wind and leap chasms with her torso sliced open and then stapled together again. Perhaps it was the power of her faith that kept her going – the same faith that made her realise that the ‘engineers’ had invited humanity to their home world. Oh sorry, that was wrong. Apparently these engineers had left messages throughout human history indicating the position of some sort of weapons dump or military research facility. Why?

Why did the android infect one of the scientists (archaeologists, whatever) with the stuff from pots scattered inconveniently across a floor like alien eggs? Because his delicate sensibilities were offended? Putting aside the sheer silliness of this infection turning said scientist into an octopus seed carrier, can I just point out that frying him with a flame thrower seemed like a rather extreme and irrational response? But then none of these people were behaving rationally anyway and no motivations were clear. Why did two of our intrepid explorers stay in that building? To get rich? Or to provide us with the convenient cliché of the idiots who wander off in the territory of monsters? Why did one of them then suddenly start treating a creature that seemed a by-blow of a snake and a flatworm as if it was Tiddles the family cat?

What was going on with that fucking big head? Yeah, I can see that the need was felt for a rehash of scenes from the Alien films with talking heads scattered about, but come on. So, this engineer’s head, severed apparently for a couple of thousand years and failing to decay, gets somehow zapped into life, bleeds a bit, bubbles up like an accelerated boil and then explodes. Why?

Then we have one of the cliché idiots coming back to the ship after having his snake pet wiggle into his mouth. He’d undergone a similar transformation to flame thrower man but in his case, instead of turning suicidal, he turned psychotic and started killing everyone. Why?

Now let’s look at the ending. Along the way our intrepid heroes have learnt that underneath that building is an alien ship apparently full of bioweapons to be used against Earth. How they learned this is a mystery. Apparently, the all-knowing Alien films android cipher learned this but I didn’t spot him telling anyone earlier on. These weapons are to be used to clean the slate to ‘start again’, so he later told super woman. Why would you want to spread something across Earth that seems to generate all sorts of fast evolving life forms that are as hostile to you as anything else? Now, I could think of explanations for this just as I could think of explanations for so much in this film. I could write this as an off-shoot of some war between two factions of the engineers. But that’s not my fucking job!

Moving on… super woman runs back from the launching alien ship and, over suit radio, tells the captain of the Prometheus that if the alien ship gets away there won’t be any Earth left to go back to. This guy is then apparently so convinced he decides to be a suicidal hero by crashing Prometheus into the alien ship. His two crewmen go with him because … well because obviously you at once decide to kill yourself at the babbled behest of someone with a torso of steel. Where they on fucking drugs?

This film was a colander of plot holes, undeveloped characters who did stuff without motivation (and who I failed to give a shit about), crap story-telling, and Alien films clichés and rehashes. It was visually beautiful and special effects were superb, but we’re past the time when the new gobsmacking stuff like that was enough because now everyone can do it and it’s time to return to the real foundation of such entertainment, which is story-telling. And finally, and most annoyingly of all and most sad, it could have been brilliant. 

Very disappointing.      

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Complete Genomics

Interesting article and video clip over at Singularity Hub...

Reid expects single cell sequencing to be commercially available within two years, and he’s very optimistic about the potential of whole genome sequencing in the fight against cancer. “I don’t think my kids are going to worry about cancer. I think we’re going to nail it in my lifetime. We’re never going to be able to stamp it out [completely] because they are mutations, and mutations are going to happen. But we’re going to be able to treat it. We’re going to turn cancer into a chronic disease, not a death sentence.”

Saturday, November 03, 2012


Bloody hell!

Gene Therapy

One of our habits/traditions in England has been weekend papers, read in bed (with tea and coffee and cigarettes for a healthy start to the day). Previously we’ve had these delivered but now that delivery costs more than the papers themselves we’ve started going to fetch them. I enjoy a chuckle at Clarkson, read some of the politics, skip over the celebrity stuff then Caroline removes the puzzle pages which we take off to Crete. This morning, out of all the articles about the economy, Europe, whatever, the one that really caught my attention was a small column quite a number of pages in. It was the most important article there and it was about this:

Regulators yesterday approved the first therapy in the western world that can correct errors in a person’s genetic code.

Europe has approved Glybera to be used against a rare inherited disorder which disrupts fat production in the body.

The treatment uses a virus to counteract LPLD, lipoprotein lipase deficiency, which can led to acute inflammation of the pancreas.

I can remember when this was confined to science fiction and the most speculative science articles about what it might be possible to do (Remember that chat between Roy and Tyrell in Bladerunner?). I can remember when this was a future possibility but maybe in ten or fifteen years if massive hurdles could be leapt. This is about changing something as ineluctable as fate: genetic predestination; the hand of cards you were dealt with in the womb and could never change. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Writing Update: Penny Royal II

Penny Royal II is now past 122,000 words and I’m slowing down a little as I enter the home straight. This is because I have had to go back to alter and add or delete plot elements, even in the previous book, to ensure things lock together. For example, I found it necessary to go back to the start of this book and have a particular entity, with a soft and changing body, undergoing radical surgery to install a ceramal skeleton. Other alterations required are about emphasis. I need to ensure that some King’s Guard warships are seen as very powerful, while an ancient factory station is outdated and vulnerable. I also need to concentrate on the internal life of a particular war drone so the reader understands its motivations.

All this is pretty much a tidying up exercise. When you write fast to produce a massive uproarious story some things fall by the wayside – you drop the ball and have to go back and pick it up. You forget things, like I forgot that a particular prador controlled a number of skeletal Golem, and I also forgot that a Penny Royal Golem is along for the ride. I need to elaborate on how a renegade prador reproduces (incidentally there’s more in this about prador biology and society: prador females, mating, fourth-children). And thinking about the next book, I might have to add something about a black hole and something called ‘the black hole paradox’.

Righto, back to work.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Cancer Deaths

The main news story on breakfast news this morning is about lung cancer now being the main cause of cancer death in women. This is obviously a terrible thing, isn’t it? A doctor came on explaining the demographics: many decades ago more men than women smoked and now we are seeing the results of women catching up in that respect. He pointed out that there is usually a large delay between smoking and this kind of cancer death, though neglected to mention that the delay is often a life-long one. Deep in this blog you’ll find a graph with lung cancer deaths along one axis and age along the other. People can die of it at any age, but the bulk of them die when they’re over 70. Now, while death of any kind is a terrible thing, are these new statistics a terrible thing too?

That many people die of cancer now is because they’re not dying of the killers of the past. Anyone who has done some research into family history will know about that. Consider for a moment the possibility that an increase in lung cancer deaths in women in the above demographic might be because many of them are not dying of something else. In fact the woman they had on the show had been cured of breast cancer before her lung cancer was discovered. Breast screening, smear tests and the resultant treatments have hammered those kinds of cancers and, of course, the most difficult one to cure remains. Life is 100% fatal – remember that next time some of these TV dipsticks start shouting statistics at you. It is arguable then, that this increase in deaths from lung cancer can be seen in a positive light.

Let me illustrate: Kevlar vests are introduced during a war. Statisticians bemoan the increase in the number of deaths from head wounds.