Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Super-Capacitor

I just picked up on this on Singularity Hub. Game Changer?

The Super Supercapacitor | Brian Golden Davis from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

What if you could charge your phone, tablet, or laptop in 30 seconds and have it work all day long? That’s the promise presented in a short film titled The Super Supercapacitor that profiles the work of UCLA inorganic chemistry professor Ric Kaner, whose research focused on conductive polymers and next generation materials.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Well, I can tease my readers with hints about what I'm writing but some readers can strike back:

'To donate to charity or not donate to charity, in this post-Kindle world... That is the question...' says Paul Clarke on Twitter. He obviously wants to see a grown man cry.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lavender Nightmares

We’re now coming to the end of our temperance month which, according to ‘health professionals’ is not such a good thing because it might encourage people to think that once the month is over they can pour down the booze willy-nilly. I stopped listening to health professionals long ago when I realised that in their efforts at self-promotion they were contradicting each other every week. All I do know is that a month off the booze gives my liver a rest, proves to me I’m not an alcoholic, and is just one sign of my increasing disinclination to drink alcohol. In fact, as this month draws to a close I’m not at all anxious to go find a corkscrew. But anyway, that’s beside the point I’m aiming at.

One of the effects of foregoing the booze is better sleep. I’m finding myself sleeping for 7 to 8 hours a night and the only time I get up is to stumble to the toilet, usually because of the excessive amounts of tea and cordial I’ve drunk. This good sleep I’m finding increasingly important, as it is for many as they get older. In the past I’ve had trouble and one solution I tried was dripping lavender oil on my pillow beforehand. Last week, while in a chemist, I spotted a bottle of the stuff and on impulse bought it and tried it out again. The result was heavier sleep – I’m now mostly sleeping right the way through to the morning – and some lurid dreams and nightmares.


I have, this week, burned the living head of Hitler, along with his chopped up body; been swimming with both my parents, though slightly puzzled about the presence of my father since he was dead; been involved in a car crash; and at one point had artichokes growing out of my bottom until I delved inside to remove the large chunk of root from which they were sprouting. Weird shit, so to speak, and the first time I’ve remembered dreams for many months. Time to put a notebook by my bed I reckon, since story ideas might be available. Though I’ll probably give the story about anal artichokes a miss.       

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Writing Update

I’m now back on track writing 10,000 words a week and Penny Royal III has now passed 30,000 words but, better than that, I’ve written myself back out of a hole. It happens like this sometimes: you’re telling the story you have to tell but it seems to be dragging a bit. It needs some spice, some danger, some apparently random element introduced to knock expectations off kilter. Raymond Chandler’s method was to walk a man with a gun into the room and, with a science fictional slant, that’s exactly what I’ve done. Well, the man isn’t a man, the room extends across light years and the gun happens to be a modern Polity dreadnought. This is now leading to me writing a lot more back story, some of which, it seems highly likely, may end up being implanted in the previous book. It’s also likely that a portion of the stuff I wrote before introducing this character might end up being either hacked out or hacked down. No matter, I’m sure there’s stuff there I can use as the basis of a short story, as I did with an 8,000 word plot thread in the first of these three books.

Moving on… For those of you who want to get into this writing profession here’s a few writer’s tips provided by various Tor authors over on the Tor Books Blog. Whether or not this is going to become a regular feature I don’t know. Also, while buggering about on Twitter I came across The Editor’s Blog which I’m finding quite handy. I particularly like this Cut The Flab – Make EveryWord Count which reminded me somewhat of an excellent book on that subject: Write Tight by William Brohaugh.   

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Necropath - Eric Brown

I remember Eric Brown from Interzone back in the eighties, with his short story The Time-Lapsed Man being a particular highlight. Like many other writers I enjoy now his name stuck in my mind (Alastair Reynolds, Ian M Banks) but haven’t really read any of his books. So, walking into Waterstones and seeing his name and this cover I just picked up Necropath and bought it. I’m glad I did. Here we have the void ships of his short stories, the massive Bengal Station space port, intrigue, murder, an alien monster and a telepathic customs official whose outlook reminds some of Silverberg’s Dying Inside – everything the hardened SF addict wants. Time now for me to a take a look at all the other books he’s written which, for some inexplicable reason, just seemed to have passed me by. Recommended.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zero Point USA

It seems they're using a slightly different cover for the US version of Zero Point, but it's still a Jon Sullivan picture so good stuff as ever. However, they seemed to have screwed up: it's 'Owner' singular...

Jeremy Lassen informs me: That was an early version of the cover that made it into the wild before we fixed the plural thing. The actual books are right, and the incorrect version currently at amazon is hopefully being overwritten this week.

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.

Meanwhile here's a Walker of Worlds review of the book:

Asher doesn't fail in making this second volume of the Owner trilogy a step up from The Departure, adding in plenty to keep the pages turning. For those familiar with his Owner short stories there are some nice treats in store, and for those that haven't.... well, what are you waiting for? In short, Zero Point is well worth reading, and I will be very much looking forward to Jupiter War!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Waterstones Romford

Nice picture here sent in by Spencer Van Schevensteen of the shelves in Waterstones in Romford. So thank you to whoever is doing the ordering there!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Books Read

I haven’t written much in here about what I’ve been reading so I’ll catch up a bit, just sticking to everything after January. Okay, after Christmas I finished off Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. I wasn’t sure whether I’d read this book when it was handed to me but the moment I dipped into it I knew I hadn’t – I was just remembering the film. It was a good easy read and worth a look for fans of the good Dr Lector. I did however have one or two doubts about it because it is a justification of him, and explanation of him, which I don’t think I either wanted or needed because the mystery that was Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs was a large part of his appeal.

City of Fire by Robert Ellis was one I picked up from Macmillan a few years ago and has been sitting on the shelf ever since. This is set in Los Angeles with bush fires burning and the Santa Anna wind blowing – hence the title – has a nasty serial killer creeping about, a bit of a family mystery and a spicing of police corruption. I like a good murder and police procedural and this was intelligently told and ticked every box for me. Recommended.

The year before last in Crete we were loaned some historical novels by Simon Scarrow concerning Wellington and Napoleon. Though I enjoyed these books I did find the battles getting a bit repetitive, but then, that was probably the reality then: ‘Okay guys, I want you to stand in neat lines while the enemy tears you apart with cannon, then walk slowly towards them.’ I then found out Scarrow had written a series about the Romans and thought I’d give those books a try. Briefly looking in a second-hand bookshop in Chester I found the entire series and thought what the hell and bought the lot. These I left stacked up on my bedside table during out return to Crete but have started on now we’re back. 

The first, Under the Eagle, I read in November. This was easy enjoyable reading focusing on minor characters in the Roman army, with plenty of intrigue, enough variety in the battles fought and plenty of interesting historical detail. I’ve now just finished The Eagle’s Conquest, which I again enjoyed and recommend, though I suspect that these books are of the kind that need to be read spaced out with other books otherwise they might begin to pall.       

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hair Cell Regeneration

Well, after years of working with noisy machinery - up until 2001 I had operated milling machines and lathes for many years then, when I went self-employed, I used mowers, chainsaws, hedge cutters and strimmers - I'm often finding myself mentally replaying stuff that people have said because I didn't hear it properly. At some point, probably in the next ten years, I'm going to need a hearing aid, but damn I would much prefer the damage repaired at its root:


In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma. This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.

This is the kind of article that undermines my usual pessimism.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Steam Punk Zeppelins!

Here's a little taste of what some fans get up to when you're not keeping a careful eye on them. I've been asked to name a starship simulator and to provide some tongue in cheek names for some airships, which I'm glad to do. The starship simulator could so easily be Schrodinger's Box out of The Engineer (esp. when you look at that caravan). I'll hand over to Paul Mackay now:

HMAS Absence of Gravitas is a 1969 Carlight Cassetta caravan with a ‘victorianised’ interior. We have used a back projection system to project from outside onto the interior front windows so it actually looks like you are in the gondola of an airship with the horizons:


The control linkages use miniature potentiometers to feed control inputs into the sim which runs into a PC running Flight Sim 2004 with an airship mod. There is a navigator’s station (uses a real map as location is real world correct and can plot routes using it). The engineers panel has 4 separate throttles which can all be set independently, useful if you want to chuck in a failure or fire scenario. The helmsman controls the nose pitch and engine angle (as they rotate up and down in modern airships). There is usually a captain as well.

Big brother is moving towards constructing a second sim that will be able to run several different software packages – i.e submarine, starship or airship. The problem with the caravan sim is that we can’t bring it indoors whereas the second sim (that we would like you to name) comes in collapsible sections that can be erected in pieces. 

The second will run a package called Artemis which is a multi station starship bridge simulator hoping you might be able to come up with a name for the starship sim. (see diagram above, its only half finished).

As I said earlier, we we run a gift shop at shows...we make and sell merchandise related to the sim – mostly my steampunk jewellery but also things like pewter cast airship keyrings, badges etc. We are also hoping to commission a poster of lots of scale drawings of various ‘ships of the line’ – all imaginary airships as if we had this whole alternative historical backstory, with the ‘Absence of Gravitas’ as just one of the fleet. We were wondering if you wanted to give us a few tongue in cheek bombastic airship names as well – think I might have to call one of them ‘Penny Royal’ if you don’t mind.

Anyway, just thought you might be interested in the sort of stuff your fans get up to when we aren’t waiting for the next book.

We have some masters getting 3D modelled in Holland at the mo, then we make silicon moulds from them and use them to cast models in pewter to sell to punters. The sims have to pay their way in the diesel etc. to get it to shows, we don’t profit much but it pays its way.

Regards and can't wait for more writings

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Hobbit (Part One)

Well, we went to see the first film of The Hobbit yesterday. I was a bit worried about it being a bit of an over-extended franchise but I shouldn’t have been. Converting a single book into a single film can be a bit dodgy because there’s always more in a book than in a film, and some of the best films have been made from short stories. I also shouldn’t have been concerned because it was Peter Jackson doing this. Some may have complained about the extended ending to the last Lord of the Rings film but Jackson was only being as faithful to the books as he had been all along.

I sat there for the best part of three hours utterly riveted. It was visually gorgeous, great fun, I enjoyed it immensely and, of course, Martin Freeman was excellent. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because Tolkien played a large part in my formative years. In junior school I remember a teacher reading The Hobbit to us and the first book I picked up on my first visit to a library was The Two Towers, and after that I read LOTR maybe five or six times. Is it only readers of that stuff that get slightly choked up when elves first put in an appearance or when Galadriel pays a visit? Probably, but Caroline, who has read none of these books, very much enjoyed the film too. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Writing Update

Okay, that’s sorted. Before Christmas I received the version of Jupiter War, edited by Peter Lavery, along with some helpful structural/character notes from Bella Pagan. Peter was the editorial director of Pan Macmillan and Tor who originally took me on. He’s now retired from Macmillan, but continues doing what he loves, which is using his scary pencil to puncture inflated writer’s egos, while Bella is a senior commissioning editor for Tor/Pan.

Peter’s editing I am accustomed to. It is generally along the lines of ‘this is a clearer way of expressing what you want’. He also picks up on repetitions and grammatical errors, selects out sections he designates ‘unnecessary?’, and returns a typescript in which I never find a page lacking corrections. After I’ve gone through his stuff the word count has usually increased by a few thousand words. But I have to add that what I take on board is completely down to me. When, many years ago now, he first returned the typescript of Gridlinked with pencilled-in corrections, he also sent an eraser – my choice.

Bella’s notes I looked at with a slight sinking sensation in my gut because structural changes can be sticky, and a simple note concerning the behaviour of a character can involve checking the same throughout the entire book. However, I’m well aware of the danger of authorial arrogance. An established author can think he knows best and the result of that can be big fat books full of boring waffle. I therefore took the bit between my teeth and dived in. She was right, of course, and I made many of the changes she suggested.

Now it’s time to get back to Penny Royal. I was on book three before Christmas but have now gone back to read through from the start of book one, correcting and altering along the way. I need to add some stuff concerning a black hole, I’m considering shifting two sections at the start of book one to the beginnings of the ensuing two books, but mostly I need to sink myself back into the whole thing and remind myself where I was at. Having gone this route before, I know that I won’t read all the way through. At some point, within the next few days, I’ll get bored with that and leap ahead to start writing afresh. That’s all for now.