Thursday, May 06, 2021

Longevity Averaging in Analog

 I’ve been reading a lot about longevity research which, if the gatekeepers of medicine were to allow it, could turn into a biotechnology boom. There is a little bit of growth in that sector now but it is still not accepted in the mainstream. It should be. Most of the diseases we suffer from now – the main killers – are the result of the steady damage accumulated over years - dementia/Alzheimers, heart disease, cancer etc - while the drug companies search for fixes for symptoms and the quickest way to a profit. We need to fix root causes. In the last fifty years these maladies have been added to by ‘metabolic syndrome’, specifically bringing type II diabetes to that list but exacerbating the rest. An awful lot of metabolic syndrome could be eliminated by changes in lifestyle, and ignoring some incredibly bad advice from ‘medical professionals’ 40 to 50 years ago (like Ancel Keys). But in the end all is still that steady accumulation of damage. 

I myself have made quite a lot of changes to my lifestyle in recent years. I quit smoking (using an ecig), I’ve reduced and would like to eliminate alcohol. I recently quit most carbohydrates and sugar and eat a close to ketogenic diet – the only reason I say ‘close to’ is because I can’t be bothered to weigh and check on the carbs in things like broccoli. I exercise a lot. I use various supplements (which I have researched), have used fasting to lose weight and increase autophagy etc and have experimented with fisetin megadosing to kill of senescent cells. I am now, I am damned certain, healthier and fitter than I was 10 to 15 years ago. But there are limits to what an individual reading up on this stuff can do and, if we are to defeat ageing, we need that biotechnology.

One upshot of all this reading is a novelette called ‘Longevity Averaging’. This is a visualization of that biotech industry in the near future, and what treatments it might use. This also covers some of the social issues involved – the title concerning state pensions. It is now published in the May/June issue of Analog Science fiction and Fact


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Snow in the Desert on Netflix


I've told this story before (some artwork in that blog post) but I might as well tell it again here. Many years ago, while mucking about on the internet, I found a video on You Tube called 'Rockfish'. This was excellent CGI (for the time) of a guy using some heavy equipment to go fishing through a planet's crust and catch a huge creature like a byblow of a Dune sandworm and one of those horrors from Tremors. I noted an email along with the video so sent a message saying something along the lines of, 'Excellent video; actors will soon be out of work'. I didn't expect a reply but got one from this guy called Tim Miller, thanking me and telling me he has some of my books on his shelves. . .

During subsequent exchanges I learned that he was the boss of Blur Studios in Venice California. Hollywood baby! He roped me into a 'Heavy Metal' project. This was basically something of a similar format to Love, Death and Robots that had been done before, though I had never heard of it. Tim asked me if I had any short stories. After my reply, and the huge attachment, he selected quite a number of stories. He also had me write some more for the project. For example one request was, 'Could you do a orcs and elves battle based on Rorke's Drift?' which I provided. Another of the stories was Snow in the Desert (bottom left now in the image below).


This project was to be sold to Paramount, but there was some sort of parting of the ways. It then got hawked around for a while, but eventually died. Apparently it was shown to Tom Cruise, who said that Snow in the Desert would make a good film just by itself. In the end Paramount bought idea of the project without the stories, so that was the end of that.

Tim Miller then moved up in the world, directing Dead Pool. He then got the possibly tainted chalice of directing a new Terminator film. I got roped into that too as an advisor, along with others like Greg Bear, Neil Stephenson and Joe Abercrombie. Flight out to LA and meetings in a room around a glass-topped table mounted on a horizontally-sliced aeroplane wing at Skydance. James Cameron sitting across the way laying out what he thought he wanted. All quite ego boosting, though I didn't appreciate it at the time since I was suffering from horrible anxiety.

The new Terminator film tanked. The reality, I think, is that people are tired of endless remakes and franchise extensions. I certainly am and I was then, but this did not impinge on my 'take the money and run' attitude. 

Tim Miller returned to another project he had also been working on throughout this and that was Love, Death & Robots. He wanted to use the stories he had from me in the first season, but overly cautious lawyers advised against that, since even though unpurchased by Paramount it seemed, since they took the idea of Heavy Metal, they might have some claim on them. This thankfully was resolved for season 2 and now you get to see Snow in the Desert on Love, Death and Robots.

I don't know what to expect. My only input was the story and those directing it have doubtless put their stamp on it and made changes. Maybe I won't like it. I'll find out soon since soon I will be getting to see it. But my attitude is still 'take the money and run' along with the knowledge that no matter what is done with one of my stories, the story itself will always exist in its original form. This may also work to boost my other sales, since Netflix as over 200 million subscribers.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Subrata Sen


“Snick, snick” “Whirrrrr” “Brrrrp” “Grrrr, grrrr, grrr.” Not sounds from a Neal Asher story that grabs you by the throat. It’s me cutting my mother’s hair, while she growls with each breath like a grey panther, a residual effect of the intubation that scarred her trachae during her last ICU staycation. Tufts of white hair litter the floor while I work my craft. I’m thinking pink highlights. Mom says she doesn’t care, doesn’t have to look at it. She used to, back in the salon days, when she would climb two flights up the rattling spiral stair from the main street where humanity flows the wrong way. She was 90 then and wanted the right cut. At 80 she had cataract surgery, one lens fixed in the distant past, the other near-time. They are both hazy now, resulting in occasional fights with vaguely described “people”. A year ago in the ICU, while she had half a dozen tubes in her, she came to fisticuffs with the neighbouring patient and her husband. I asked her who won – she thought for a bit and sadly said, I think I lost.

I put up a bio on Neal’s blog (https://www.nealasher.co.uk/2017/08/) in August 2017’s “Who Reads My Books” post. It lays out the arc of my life and literary interests, at least till 2017, when I was still traveling and photographing the world, working part-time,and exercising intensely. This is an update, so I will try not to repeat myself, except for the basics. I am 69, a trained physicist and retired engineer. I had retired at 60 to avoid being transferred back from Bangalore, where my mom and dad lived with me, to my base in Houston, Texas. I watched over my dad for the last five of his seventeen-year spiral into the black hole of Alzheimer’s. His body was army-strong, his brain was swiss cheese as he Benjamin-Buttoned his way back to a zygote. And now my mom, nine years later, is diminishing rapidly. I am their only child, so all arguments about their care were with myself.I had not lived with my parents since the age of ten, when I went to a Jesuit-run boarding school for boys, though I visited home for the longer holidays.Hiding out in the library from the sports-mad padre’s, I found both fiction and my interest in science. I enjoy my own company and always dreamt of an unbounded life. No long-term plan I have ever made, nor scenarios for which I have prepared, have ever worked; but acquiring plenty of resources and developing flexibility has served me well.

Coming back to India after 40 years away was not a pleasure, but an unregretted necessity. You can never go home. Not when the country you left uncrowded and free has nearly quadrupled in density. Demographic dividend? Bah, humbug. You don’t get that just by reproducing or looking at per capita GDP. You need good governance, good nutrition and affordable education for the masses, infrastructure, and capital. The quality of life sucks, as does the air. It is a land of dust, which turns to mud for the monsoon. But the young, they don’t know it. They do know they want a new smart phone and a scooter. And if they can’t find a job, they can steal. Or better yet join the bureaucracy through our brilliant quota system.

What’s changed since 2017? I run a single patient old-age home. Full-time, no breaks anymore. In Bangalore, India. This has put a stop to my greatest pleasure, travel to new, far-off places. It has also curbed a few more pleasures, the most important being old, retired and having fuck-all to do. Goodbye leisure. My maximum attention span lasts 30 minutes, after which there is something I must do. Remember having toddlers? I never did, but I imagine it is remarkably similar, except your mom and dad won’t grow up and leave the house. And possibly return to bug you when you are old.

Why Bangalore? It is cruel to move old folks across the world at the fag-end of their lives. And healthcare is unaffordable for foreigners in the U.S.A. While she is uninsurable in India too, I can afford my mom’s care here, and hire people to help at home. However, this is not a good place for an introverted self-contained and self-reliant person (me) to live. And having help in India comes at a huge unforeseen cost, not entirely expressible in rupees. Every person you hire has a large and extended family. Ask a friendly question and you find yourself paying for someone’s brother’s college education. Or air-con. Or operation(s). Not the way it worked in the U.S. when I hired help.

So now, I travel through e-space searching out new music, research in science, history, biology, health, fitness and longevity, archaeology, physics and whatever else is new and not connected with current events, politics, and people trying to give me life-lessons. The roads are beyond awful and the blind may drive here, but the internet connectivity is great. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and an Indian service that consolidates several other content providers are all accessible.

Like Neal, I’m encouraged enough by longevity research to expect that I will have a long health-span with my focus on nutrition, exercise and supplements that fight senescence. I will optimistically gloss over the genetic aspects. Just before India’s corona-shutdown in March 2020, I managed to achieve my lifetime best inclined bench press (2 seven-rep sets at 100 kg), not bad for someone 68 years old, 5 ½ ft tall and 70 kg. Someday I will be back in the gym and do better. I will get back my guitar skills, regenerate my knees and ski again, overcome my panic attacks and scuba again. Nah, scratch the last two.

And, of course, there is reading. Late at night, mom’s asleep, I can light up the Kindle and open to where I left the last Asher sci-fi mind-blaster, or a graphic novel by Jodorowski, or the latest Phillip Pullman. I don’t read a lot anymore, but I always look forward to short science fiction (Azimov’s, SF&F magazine) and my favourite few authors. The best voyages are of the mind.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday, March 26, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Gotz Roderer

 

Just me – around the time of Spatterjay

Hi! My name is Götz, and, yes, I know, this is a complicated name. Why I love the books by Neal Asher? They are intricately woven (just like the technology of the Atheter), address a variety of interesting scientific topics without ever pushing them before the storytelling, and are plainly always great fun to read – especially stories about the drones. Or about Spaterjay. Or about … you know.

Myself I am a Physicist from Regensburg deep in the south of Germany. Up to very recently I worked in a big global, Japanese-led company, being responsible for research and development in Europe, working my way through numerous projects and meetings with people from 25 nations on board (literally), and loved it. Got my fair bit of travelling around the world, but sometimes a bit too much travelling, so after twenty years I recently decided to switch my professional career over and became a Professor at a German Technical University, working with young people and driving new technology.  

 

My favorite place for beer-and-smoke when abroad

Which hopefully gives me a bit more time for my family (wife and daughter; the cat recently died). 

And for reading – there are some unread books even by Neal Asher. And for my other hobbies, like making music. Or some occasional sky diving (every birthday I get thrown out of a plane by my loving – and grinning - wife Annemarie). But especially writing, since this is something I have done since I was about 14. 

 

Writing … at least trying to write

For me, it is purely by-the-side-profession; I do mostly Science-Fiction shorts and storylines for Perry Rhodan (the biggest and oldest SF-series in the world) or articles about science topics (and two books, you can google up if you like). And that’s  why I came in contact with Neal Asher in his manifestation as a “internet-person”. He is really, really good in digging up interesting science stuff. 

  And then he puts this stuff into his fantastic books. It is a big part of the magic of his books.

 

Me – waiting for the next book to arrive

And even in his most dystopian scenarios (looking at you, Jain), there is hope, there is the drive to find a way out and to somehow create a good future. There is curiosity, all the way to the drones. I think, curiosity brought me to Science Fiction, and Science Fiction to Physics, and both let me really enjoy the books of Neal Asher!

Götz Roderer

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Jonathon Fletcher


Jonathon reads my books. I swiped the below from his website here, where you can read the rest of the biography below:

This is a little background about my life and how I became a writer. I was born and brought up near Stockport, England. I grew up with science fiction, right from sitting on my Dad’s knee watching Doctor Who starring Tom Baker in the seventies. I was a huge fan of Star Wars (I still have my collection) and also loved Blake’s 7, Space 1999, Knight Rider, Star Trek... If it was vaguely sci-fi related, I watched it. I guess it’s the complete fantasy that appealed to me. I would spend hours in my bedroom making Lego models of Airwolf or Daleks and acting out scenes with them.

In science fiction there are no boundaries to your imagination. You can create whole worlds, even galaxies, far, far away. I always loved a great sci-fi gadget, spacecraft or weapon; from a lightsaber to the drop-ship in Aliens, or a Martian tripod war machine. I used to make models of things that I liked out of cardboard cereal packets and loo rolls when I was younger and I guess that's where my model making career sprouted from. After studying Art & Design at school, I went on to complete a Foundation course in Art at Stockport College and then opted for a degree in Media Production.


I’ve been working on the #SpaceNavy universe on and off since I started my degree (Media Production including Animation BA/Hons) in 1992 at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, U.K. I first started working on the story ideas for the Unity story arc when I was in my first year and I still have my big red sketch book with my original scrawled ideas and drawings inside. I would doodle the designs for spaceships, aliens, robots and so on. Some of those designs have even made it onto the covers of my books. I always knew I would do something with them, I just didn’t know what at the time.

It was when I was undertaking the degree that I discovered a magical thing called a “film script”. I didn't actually take the script writing course, but a lot of my best friends did and I picked up a great deal from them, especially Paul Bird and Mark Collins. I worked on several other student films, mostly creating sets, props and various effects. Then I decided that I wanted to make my own sci-fi epic, called "Unity"! . . .

...



Friday, March 12, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Tony Brown


  Alas poor Tony Stark, I knew him well.

Who reads your books? Well I do, Neal. I was born just before JFK took that fateful trip past the grassy knoll in Texas. I'm Geordie of origin but have lived nearly all my life in the Lucky Country, Brisbane Australia, my parents being 10 pound poms. I am so grateful for them for having the guts to pack their meagre belongings and kids and sail half way around the world to who knew what. I began my love of books at the age of 10 when our library teacher read a passage from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. After the lesson I immediately sought out that book and read it cover to cover, and so began my love of reading. I recall devouring The Alfred Hitchcock Three Investigator series of books as a young lad and as I grew older then discovering horror, with Stephen King and Dean R Koontz being my main diet. I also discovered pot and Michael Moorcock around the same time and then broadened to anything from James Clavell through to Wilbur Smith. I somehow ended up doing apprenticeship and became a carpenter after leaving school and did all manner of work from constructing high rise buildings to building lobster tanks for restaurants.

 

Stop over in Greece 1964 Mum and me.

I eventually grew bored of this and joined the Air force in my early thirties and after a few years got an all expenses paid trip to the Arabian Peninsular. It was some time around here in the Air force that I stopped reading books. I think this was due to me living on base and the rise of the internet and online gaming, which I embraced. Moving on 5 yrs or so, after getting married and leaving the air force to work as a civvie, one day someone left a copy of Alistair Reynolds Chasm City in the lunchroom, I took it home and decided to read it and that was it, I was back in the reading groove. I read all of Reynolds books and was blown away by them and then was looking for something new. At the time, much to the disgust of the wife, I had embraced and was obsessed with home brewing beer to the point of winning a state title and a trip to America. I was on a home brew website one day browsing the off topic thread where someone had asked for a good read and someone else replied The Skinner by Neal Asher, I googled it and saw this awesome blue skinned, evil, bizarre looking monster and thought "That's for me" I got it  and was totally blown away by the world of Spatterjay and the flora and fauna ecosystems Neal had created. I read all his works and alternated between him, Reynolds and then discovered the brilliant Reality Dysfunction by Hamilton to keep me reading between Neal's releases. Then one day not too long ago, knock me down with a feather! I discovered he would actually talk to his readers on his Facebook page, I was totally blown away and embraced it and hope I don't annoy him too much.  I've recently reread the Cormac series, just finished Lockdown Tales and am currently on Owning the future. 


The Family at Stradbroke Island about 1hrs drive and 40 min ferry trip from home.

I love listening to Pink Floyd, playing a bit of bass and am building a full sized 3D printed Mark 85 Iron Man suit just for something different (I love Iron Man). I have two boys, 15 and 13 and they keep me more busy than I like, driving them to various sports and sports training just about every day of the week. Oh well, as they say, there is no rest for the wicked.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Who Reads my Book? Dean Edis


Hi Neal! I don't know if you've got enough 'Who Reads My Books' fodder, but I thought I might add my humble blurb to the pile.  I won't be offended if I don't 'make the cut' - I mostly just wanted to say thanks for all the books!  

Apologies for the grammar…

My name is Dean Edis (43) and I come from Cambridge in the UK, living with my wife, two kids, and two cats.  My ‘Asher’ journey started an eternity ago with ‘Gridlinked’ and I _think_ I’ve read every book he’s published since then.  To avoid sounding too stalker-y I should point out I also enjoy reading Richard Morgan, Ian M Banks, and most recently R. R. Haywood.

I’m currently re-re-reading The Owner series - An awesome trilogy and worth looking at if you haven’t already!

My day job is a software developer (mostly C#/C++), so the COVID lockdown thankfully hasn’t affected me too much.  As such I’ve had years of training to enjoy my own company and being a bit socially awkward. Still, after nearly a year it is getting a bit tiresome…

In my spare time I alternate between rebuilding an old Sinclair C5, making a near full-size Arduino-powered BB8 robot, and writing GPU-powered ‘shaders’.  These ‘shaders’ are written in entirely in computer code from the ground-up, not requiring any 3D models or art packages, and with a clever application of vector math and algebra you can make some pretty cool scenes which run in ‘real time’ on even a modest PC. 


If anyone is interested I usually put my efforts on YouTube and Twitter.

Right – I’m going back to ready a bit more ‘Zero Point’ now.  I’m juuust getting to the finale…

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Chandra London


Surprise, I’m not a beardy middle-aged pale dude! (To be fair, I did marry one.) I am, however, a big ole nerd from childhood. My interest in science fiction and fantasy probably started around age 6 when I saw my mum reading The Lord of the Rings books and wanted to know who those little guys on the cover were. She handed me a copy of The Hobbit and off I went. My dad was not much of a fiction reader, but he did love futurism and had a subscription to Omni magazine. Whenever it arrived in the mail I would immediately snatch it up and read it cover-to-cover, and of course my favourite parts were the short stories. There, I was introduced to most of the SF greats from Asimov to Zelazny, as well as some others that I came to love such as Spider Robinson and Richard Kadrey. My nerdiness extends to RPGs, comics, board games, video games, non-vascular plants, invertebrates and rocks. I have a favourite lichen (that fact says everything about me, really). Going for walks with me is apparently annoying because I’ll stop to look at all the little plants and creepy crawlies. 


I got into Neal Asher’s books by picking up a copy of The Skinner sometime around 2007. I immediately fell in love with Spatterjay’s ecosystem and the Polity AIs. I’m now known for pushing this book on anyone who asks for a book recommendation, and have managed to get several friends hooked. I’ve got 20 of your books at this point, still gotta catch ‘em all.

What does a gal do when she’s not reading Neal’s books? Since I’ve had a lot of time at home over the last little while due to waves at the fuckery I decided to organize my book collection. I purged about 10 boxes of dross and am now left with about 1400 books currently shelved in actual alphabetic order and catalogued using LibraryThing. 

Don’t worry Neal, you were safe from the purge!

What else do I do? I’ve been a geologist exploring for gold in the Arctic and oil in northern Alberta, an environmental technician, a residential geothermal designer, a delivery driver and a parent of weirdly tall children (seriously, paint ‘em blue, they’d look like something from that Avatar movie). I am on the lookout for my next career--since I’m learning geographic information systems (GIS), hopefully something in that? I currently live in Edmonton, Alberta, though I spent my childhood throughout the wilds of northern Canada living in places you had to fly to get to.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Henry Wolfe


Hi Neal,

I've been an avid reader of SF from a very young age, I can't really remember what I first read but likely to have been Asimov or A C Clarke. As a kid I spent a lot of time in librarys looking for the yellow Gollancz book spines. From there, moved onto Harry Harrison and very much to Larry Niven's works.

Fast forwarding into the near past, I had been getting heavily into P F Hamilton and I had got an E Reader and now that physical space was no longer a problem! I started actively trying to fill this up as much as possible so subscribed to several sub-reddits on SF books and looked for recommendations.



Always loving military and epic scale Sci Fi/Space Opera it didn't take long for your name to show, hence I was introduced to your works via Prador Moon. Well I was hooked from there and have since got every book you've done. I'm trying hard, but can't think of a dud yet, which is pretty impressive. Stand out favourites for me are the Spatterjay and Agent Cormac books. Jain related stories are breathtaking in scope, but take a fair amount of reading to get your head around. Your stories incorporating natural or biological elements make a refreshing change from the norm too.


Oh yes, about me?

Well I spent a shade over 20 years working for the UK's largest wholesale magazine  & news distributer in a variety of roles from part time Packer Driver to SAP Implementation team, then eventually onto 'Special Projects'. Then I became sentient and, because of a whole lot of various tragic family dramas, I pulled in close with my family and embraced this change in lifestyle whole heartedly (I don't really do half measures).

Family life, is probably more tiring and hard work than any of the 14 hr shifts I ever did at 'work' but ultimately a lot more satisfying. I now spend my days caring for my family, including my disabled wife, autistic daughter, and two traumatised and damaged grandkids. I should throw in the blind cat and half blind dog into the mix too I suppose.

And you know what? I couldn't be happier. Busier but very fulfilling.

Life sometimes has a way of making you appreciate things in a different way from expected.

Not sure if it's any good, but it's what I have!

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Aaron Spuler


Joining the ranks of those that have submitted to Neal's question of who reads his books.  Not sure what the relevancy is of the pattern, but there defintely seems to be a pattern of folks with beards featured here...

I've been a fan of science fiction for as long as I can remember.  I am a voracious reader, averaging 40 - 60 books a year for over three decades. 

I've dipped my toes in to Arthurian legends, Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, David Weber, John Ringo, Joe Haldeman, Robert A. Heinlein, Ben Bova, Ursula K. Le Guin, Dan Abnett, JRR Tolkien, Robotech, William H. Keith, Norvell Page, David Gemmell, Andy Remic, Graham McNeill, Louis L'Amour, Travis S. Taylor, John Ringo, and hundreds of other authors. I defnitely read much more SF than other generes, but do enjoy horror, fantasy, military, zombie apocalypse, mystery, crime, and western generes as well.  Given the option, I would prefer to read than watch something on television.

Part of the big draw to me for science fiction is the promise of the future.  It really is neat to read something set decades or centuries in the future, then start to see the inklings of those imagined technologies in every day life just a few short years later.

Another part is just simple escape.  Escape from the dullness of everyday life, a getaway to a different place/time where your problems/concerns can't follow, or just something completely different.  There's plenty of times that the inside of my head may be 30,000 - 40,000 years away from the present day.

At the end of the day, I'm just a regular guy from Texas who loves guns, listens to metal, and has a deep love of reading.  To pay the bills, I have worked at one of the 'big four' credit card companies hacking their applications for the past 15 years. These days I don't get as much time to get my hands dirty as I lead the global internal hacking group.  A personal side project for the last 11 years has been sharing my love of firearms as founder and editor in chief at The Weapon Blog -- Neal, you did mention that self-promotion was permitted! I get to share every day with my wife, two boys, two dogs, four donkeys, four chickens, and two goats, especially now more than before with the times we find ourselves in."

In closing, I'll echo what Mr. Waters stated: "My name is Aaron, and I read Neal Asher!"


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Matthew Leigh


Hi Neal,

I thought I should take my opportunity for a few moments of internet fame.

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered your books but I do know it would have been in the Waterstones on Oxford street. I was working in a cocktail bar in the west end and the time spent on public transport reignited my joy in reading and I steadily worked my way through the sci-fi section. I think Cowl was my first. Growing up our family all read and we had lots of books the whole family read, most memorably the Duncton wood series, where in turn we would all laugh and cry at the same parts. The hobbit was also a firm childhood favourite but Lord of the Rings not so, starting on multiple occasions but never finished, to this day. My taste slowly changed from fantasy to sci-fi. Favourites now revolve around you, Alastair Reynolds, Iain M Banks, Richard Morgan and Frank (and grudgingly Brian) Herbert. 

I live in Brentwood, Essex but grew up in Suffolk. The distance from London is perfect. Close enough to work but far enough to be near real countryside. 

For work, I am a commercial electrician but came to it in my 30’s after years of managing pubs and bars in various parts of London. After dealing with drunk/angry/overly happy people for years building sites are quite tame. 

In my spare time I’m getting back into cycling for fitness, scale models (stop laughing) and as a family we have an allotment (plot48b on Insta) where I can live out my The Good Life fantasy. 

Well thanks for the interest in who reads your amazing work, I feel I’m in good company. 

Matt

Pictures: Ivy, Nicole and our glorious compost heaps. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Andrew Denman


I discovered your books through my best friend of twenty years who, knowing my love of the weird and wonderful, recommended the Spatterjay series.  The richness of your “world-building” had me hooked immediately with The Skinner. As an animal lover and monster afficionado, I loved the intricacy of the ecology, and the manner in which cultural and societal norms were so intricately tied to that ecology (as is always the case even if we are blind to it). I also really identified with the positivity of your futurism.  Though your books have plenty of horror elements, the future universe you imagine is a positive place where human beings have transcended all manner of foibles. 

I have been obsessed with science fiction and horror since I was a kid.  When I about five-years-old, I began suffering from ocular migraines (undiagnosed until years later) that caused visual distortions such as severe tunnel vision.  To a small child, it was quite terrifying, and, also coincidentally suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I developed elaborate bedtime rituals to try and stop what I perceived as some sort of monstrous existential threat. Having had an experience which, however mundane and medical it ultimately turned out to be, I perceived as fantastical, made me adore stories of the bizarre, paranormal, and futuristic.  Stories of ordinary people living through extraordinary circumstances, learning how to successfully combat monsters, master the vacuum of space, and otherwise transcend normal human experience was intoxicating.  

Long before I discovered your work, I loved classic science fiction, both in the world of literature (Asimov and Wells being among my favorites) and film. I grew up on the campy horror and sci-fi of the 1950’s and 60’s, and still appreciate them today, especially for their flaws. I enjoy both the goofiness of the technology they envisioned and as documents of the contemporarily problematic cultural norms they often embody.  


With these genres as my reference point, it is no wonder that my first forays into my future career as an artist were focused on monsters, dragons, imaginary creatures from distant planets, about which I would narrate mock wildlife documentaries long before I knew that exobiology was a thing (You can understand why I have fallen in love with Hooders, Gabbleducks, and the like). Eventually my focus shifted to living wildlife, and I now make my living as a professional artist specializing in painting wildlife in a style combining representational realism with abstraction. Though my professional work is more grounded in reality than my childhood experiments, I still have an eye for the fantastical, taking my subjects out of their natural environments and recontextualizing them.  Popular of late has been my totem series, in which animal subjects are stacked in dizzying towers, referencing both the delicate balance of nature and the manner in which humans have always imbued their animal neighbors with symbolic import.  Painting animals for a living, I am an ardent conservationist, but I DO NOT identify with the apocalypticism that dominates so much conservation ideology.  I grow weary of the constant negativity and alarmism, mostly because it inspires defeatism rather than positive change. Based on some of your FB posts, I have a hunch we would find a lot of common ground on this subject over a drink or three. 




I grew up in California with a loving family who encouraged (and still encourage) my creativity.  I feel enormously fortunate to have been able to build my career around my passion for the visual arts, though I enjoy many other creative exploits, including writing poetry, screenplays, novels, and short stories.  I am determined to one day squeeze out a particular sci-fi-horror-fantasy novel I have been writing in fits and starts for years. Of course a certain author continues to be an inspiration on this front! 


Today I live in Tucson, AZ with my partner Guy, also an artist, and our two dogs, Ella and Enzi.  We live in a fabulous original mid-century modern home ( a long-time ambition of mine, finally realized two years ago), the architecture of which reflects the naive futurism of the 1950’s and 60’s that I love so much. 


As an artist, I think what I appreciate most about your work is the notion of finding ways to extend human life. True artists always have more ideas in their heads than we will ever be able to bring to life on a page, in a painting, or in any other physical manifestation. It is both the gift and the curse of the artist to know that he will always have more “brain children” waiting to be born than he will ever be able to share in his lifetime.  I don’t resent a wrinkle or a grey hair, but I do fear running out of time, and your books transport me to a universe where the infinite stands before us, vast, terrifying, and brimming with promise.

The pictures in order are a headshot, two images of my artwork "Totem #6: Teton Totem." and "String Theory #9: European Goldfinches." Both are acrylic on board.  A picture of me (on the right) with my partner in Kenya, and a shot of our dogs and constant companions, Ella & Enzi. Thanks very much for inviting us to share our own stories and for always sharing your own!

Friday, February 26, 2021

Who Reads my Books Stevan Apter

My first Asher was Prador Moon. i recommend it to friends as a gateway drug. I can't eat soft-shell crab without having queasy associations ... gee thanks Neal. Like others around here I started reading SF around age 10 - the Heinlein juveniles. then quickly discovered the paperback rack at the local drugstore: Methuselah's Children, Childhood's End, Rebirth (The Chrysalids), Starship (Non-Stop). Harlan Ellison!! My academic background is philosophy (logic & metaphysics), and while I still read in this area, I've lost the appetite for writing. Contemporary academia strikes me as hell on earth. My wife Rebecca is the SF novelist R M Meluch (space-Romans!). I earn my living as a programmer, specializing in the various array programming languages (APL, K, J). My first programming job (1970) was working at the pole for the US Antarctic research program. Asher writes faster than I can read -- I can't keep up. 

My website is nsl.com, and here we are at a convergence con a few years ago:


And here with the kind folks who put me up for a month in their longhouse in the village of Madobak on Siberut - despite the corbusier spectacles and big stupid clown-shoes.


And finally here I am in Ajijic Mexico with our beloved wolf-dog Jermiah.


Note: I often chat with people via DMs and it was only when in passing Stevan mentioned his wife that I recognised the name. Obviously it is not a common one, to me anyway. Memory switches clicked down and I had to ask, 'Is this your wife?' The book has been in my collection for some time. That it is there means I very much enjoyed it.
                                       -- Neal Asher


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Alan Smith


Hi Neal

I started on SciFi very early with my father's huge collection of pulp magazines, firstly by looking at all the lurid illustrations then eventually graduating to the written word.  I read all the usual classics:  Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Campbell, etc before moving onto newer, edgier writers like Vonnegut, Harry Harrison, Bob Shaw, Philip K Dick and Douglas Adams.  Being the exact right age for the likes of Star Wars, (Tom Baker) Dr Who and Blakes 7 also helped cement my life-long love of the genre, with gothic and weird being my favourite flavour. 

I first found one of your books (The Gabble) around the same time I discovered Alastair Reynolds and Iain Banks (what a year!) It immediately appealed to my taste for the profoundly strange and alien, with hints of a much bigger universe that you kindly expanded upon in the following decade. My favourite (so far) is the first full novel that I read: Voyage of the Sable Keech, it pitched me into a universe of monsters and intrigue that made my head spin - glorious!

I've had a pretty mixed working life with an early stint in the Royal Australian Navy followed by many, many driving and delivery jobs before falling into civil engineering and following a move to New Zealand, a 15 year career with the local Council.  Officially, I manage a small team of guys who repair and maintain the wastewater and stormwater infrastructure but you can usually find me 'on the tools' and elbow deep in something unpleasant!

I'm currently re-reading Gideon the Ninth (and then Harrow the Ninth) by Tamsyn Muir in preparation for the final instalment due this year.  If you like a gothic blend of fantasy and scifi, I highly recommend it.

Cheers!

And a photo of me in Bali with a group of mates for our collective 50th.  Remember when you could just get on a plane and travel?  Sigh...

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Steven Lee


Hi Neal. I guess I must have first read one of your books – Prador Moon – about 4 or 5 years ago. I then spent a long time wading through Peter F Hamilton’s output before returning to you at the beginning of 2020. Since then, I have worked my way through Shadow of the Scorpion and the 5 Cormac books.

I started reading sci-fi early, spurred on by my older brother who was nose deep in Clarke and Asimov. Terrance Dicks was an early favourite for me. I even remember reading a set of 5 fiction books written by Sir Patrick Moore! As a teenager I discovered fantasy and entered Middle Earth, the Belgariad of David Eddings, Raymond E Feist’s Rift War Saga, and more. Then, one fated day, I picked up a book called Legend by David Gemmell. A lifelong passion for his writing followed; I know you also have a collection of DGs books in your library and I suspect, like he did for me, he inspired elements of your writing. I read some Iain M Banks in my twenties, but I didn’t return to sci-fi properly until my mid-to-late-forties. I’ve since read everything by PFH, can’t seem to get into Alistair Reynolds, and have obviously discovered you. I am writing this on my 51st birthday and have just used a welcome Amazon voucher to purchase the Transformation trilogy for my Kindle – yes, that is a bribe – put me on your blog!! Please use the royalties to enjoy a nice hot curry or, maybe, a few cold ones at Revan’s!


As to who I am – married, father of two grown ups (though not sure I’ve actually grown up!), grandad of one. An ex-civil servant, I have worked a few different jobs since. A congenital bad back (degenerative disc) and sciatica forced me out of full-time work a few years back now and, while I was laid up on benefits and I’d already run through the DVD library, I decided to turn my hand to writing for one last time. I had tried to write out the stories in my head in my late-teens/early-twenties but burnt the dross I typed up back then. I have now got six books out in two series, one being a collection of short stories. Check out my Facebook page here: Steve P Lee Author. I work part-time at the local motor auctioneers and sell hard rock/heavy metal patches and an assortment of ‘alternative’ goods on eBay.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Graeme Finch


If you want some back story you need to whiz back through Neals blog to the 17th of January 2010… that was a lot of clicking and scrolling Mr Asher. Have you ever thought about adding a search my blog button FFS?

In the ten years since I wrote a `Who Reads my Books?' piece’ for Neal's blog many things have transpired. Here’s an interesting one cribbed from that very piece: Neal’s own references to strong diseases and weak humans in Cowl will, if we are unlucky, prove to be one of those Scfi “cos that’s wot’l appen” moments some time down the line.

Well blown me down with a feather, ten years later Covid-19.

Everyone who reads Neals books needs to read Cowl, it will bend your head, but some of the visualisation is fabulous and it’s a golly good romp through time. I think it’s one of my favourites because it’s written about our shared home turf of Essex. Though I am originally from East London, the Essex countryside has been my easiest route to nature since I was a child, staying for weeks at a time at my nan's place in Kirby Cross near Frinton-on-Sea during the school holidays. Later, once I had the independence of two wheels with an engine, I explored the area (unknowingly) that Cowl starts in; the Saltmarshes and flats of what Essexites call the `The Thames Delta’… it isn’t a delta, but it’s not far off.

I did read Moby Dick, it was a monster of a book, never mind the whale. It’s very much an academic read, and useful glimpse into social history (a bit like Dickens and the Iliad). Is the Silmarillion still my favourite book? Probably. I’ve read a lot more Tolkien since then, mostly the later stuff edited and published by Christopher Tolkien, and as much to get an understanding of his father's mind (if such a thing is possible) as for the stories themselves. I could quite happily write a piece on Tolkien. But I can summarise my thoughts with: my gut says he got lost in world building, lost in his experience of the first world war, and trying somehow, through endless iterations of noble soldiers trooping into battle in gleaming armour, pennants held high, trying to find nobility in war and death, contrary to the reality of his experience of trench warfare. Apparently, I’m not the first person to think this. When asked, he denied it.

Where am I in science fiction now? Waiting for Neal's next. Halfway through a re-read of the Culture novels, which I only discovered in August 2011 while recuperating from a Lumbar fusion. I’m awaiting the last instalment of the Expanse. I’ve also discovered Adrian Tchaikovsky, read the Reynolds Revenger series and a few others.

I should mention Kevin Andersons the Seven suns Saga… or whatever it’s called. Utter bilge, I skimmed the second book in the series to find out what happened to one character who disappeared into a wormhole, but he didn’t come out at any point in the second book. After this I took both books and binned them so no one else would be subjected to them.

In-between doses of science fiction, I’ve been reading commentaries of the past the present and the future. Matt Ridley’ How Innovation Works, Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. If you ever wondered why North America is English speaking in the main, and why South America is Spanish speaking? The answer is the Comanche.

It has been an interesting decade, I’ve moved house three times, lived full-time in a camper van with my other half for the best part of eight months as we travelled around Spain, Portugal, France, Italy Germany, Holland, Luxembourg and a big old chunk of the UK, finally settling in what has become my spiritual home, Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, a place I find difficult to put into words. Though I am trying to on my own new blog. What’s next? Trying to do that thing that Neal does so well. Write…  just sit down and make it up as you go along. My problem is that my brain doesn’t work like that, so I’ll have to find my own approach to the writings that litter my Onedrive. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Joerg Mosthaf


My name is Joerg Mosthaf and I work as physicist and team lead in the accelerator control system team of the Heidelberg Ion Beam Therapy Center HIT in Heidelberg, Germany (https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/interdisziplinaere-zentren/heidelberger-ionenstrahl-therapiezentrum-hit or https://www.heidelberg-university-hospital.com/diseases-treatments/cancer-and-tumor-diseases/proton-therapy-and-carbon-ion-therapy ). 

I did my “Wehrersatzdienst” (which used to be an alternative to mandatory military service in the late 20th century in Germany) as a paramedic for the red cross and afterwards studied physics with a minor in neurophysiology at the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. During my final years there, I worked as a scientific assistant at the institute of medical informatics and did my thesis on real time temperature measurements via T1 relaxation times variation in MRI during RF ablation therapy. After a few years of working in IT/web project management and first level support I got the job in the accelerator control system team for the then newly built (partly still in construction) synchrotron accelerator at the Heidelberg university hospital. 

The Heidelberg Ion Therapy Centre (HIT) is a dedicated hadron accelerator facility for radio-therapeutical treatment of tumour patients. The two horizontally fixed treatment places, the 360° gantry, as well as the experimental area can be served with proton and carbon beams with qualified beam parameters, helium is available for the experimental area and soon for treatment, and oxygen is being tested.

The achieved energy range of 88-430 MeV/u for carbon ions and 48-221 MeV/u for protons is sufficient to reach a penetration depth of 20-300 mm in water. We use virtual accelerators (VAccs) to model all the different possible beamlines and used beam parameters (MEFI – Mass, Energy, Focus, Intensity). The MEFI consist of 4 ion types (M), 255 energy steps (E), 4 beam widths (F) and 10 ion flux steps (I). The beam is then applied with fast scanning magnets in a raster scan application to the tumor in the patient.

I work as team lead for the accelerator control system. My job is to keep the server system running that maintains all the different parameters for all the devices in the accelerator and sends them to the device control units (DCU) that control magnets, rf systems and so on. We use redundant host servers and a redundant SAN storage for our database and main control servers running in a virtual environment. The accelerator control room houses 18 acs clients on which our acs software clients run and is manned 24/7 by at least two people. We work 8 hour rotating shifts with 24h on call status thrown in. Therapy runs for about 10-12 hours a day for 5 days (mon-sat) with the rest of the time used for QA, beam conditioning and research. The research time is used by several institutes for anything from treatment research to material and electronics research.

I am also part of the beam conditioning team, that is responsible for correcting beam position, intensity and width in night shifts to get verified and validated beam parameter sets for use in therapy plans.

I also read Neals books and other science fiction and fantasy books. I specially like military science fiction books and books about first contact. My favorite authors (besides Neal of course) are Alastair Reynolds, James S.A. Corey, John Scalzi, Ian Banks, Evan Currie, Marco Kloos, Dennis E. Taylor, Jay Allen, Jodi Taylor, Mary Robinette Kowal but also Fantasy authors like Seanan McGuire, Terry Pratchet, Jim Butcher, Steven Brust and the classics like Robert Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov and so on.

Other hobbies are RPGs - I play and DM mainly Pathfinder, Starfinder, Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 and german RPG systems like Das Schwarze Auge (the dark eye in English), Die SchwarzeKatze and Hexxen 1733 – and computer games (Cyberpunk 2077, Division 1 and 2, Deep Rock Galactic AC Valhalla…) and watching tv series (Expanse, Star Trek, Enchanted, Bridgerton…)

I try to keep active but with my work schedule it is hard to get any organised sport in and I usually am to lazy after 10 hours of night shift to do anything else than read, play or watch tv 😉) 

Here a few pictures of HIT:


Figure 1 Accelerator overview

1. Ion sources (2 ECR ion sources for carbon/oxygen, hydrogen/protons and helium)

2. Linear accelerator up to ~0.10 c

3. Synchrotron accelerator up to ~0.75 c

4. High energy beam line to the patient treatment rooms

5. Nozzle in patient treatment room

6. Patient position control with digital x-ray system

7. 360° rotating ion gantry with sub millimetre precision

8. Gantry patient treatment room with rotating x-ray systems

9. Experimental room for research


Figure 2 External view of the HIT facility


Figure 3 Gantry treatment room with nozzle at 0°


 Figure 4 Gantry back room with the rotating part of the gantry visible, nozzle at 90°



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Doug Whipple



Hi Neal, 

I hope this doesn’t end up being too boring. I am 71, been reading since I can remember. I bought my first book, Gunner Cade, in the late 1950’s with money I earned berry picking. And I’ve never looked back. I think I own somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 hardback books. Most would be split between Science Fiction/Fantasy and History, mostly military. But, I do read religion, philosophy, detective stories, and just about anything else. 


I started out working construction, then put myself through college, although I admit that my degree didn’t fit me for any real work (Political Science), but I thoroughly enjoyed my years of college, 1967-1971. I have worked as a greenskeeper, a logger, a laborer on construction sites, a medical records manager and finally as a Data Base Administrator for 35 years. I know being a DBA sounds exciting and adventurous, but mostly it wasn’t except when something went really wrong, which was more sphincter tightening than exciting, although it usually involved copious amounts of yelling, panicking, hand wringing and finger pointing by management.  

I have been retired for the last 4 years, doing my hobbies of reading, shooting and being outdoors whenever possible. 

I have been married for 23 years and we have 1 daughter who is smarter and better looking than either one of us. 


My first book of yours was GRIDLINKED. I was hooked. One thing I would live to see some more of, is the hornet hive minds. What a great concept. The whole Polity universe is so complex and dense, it seems real, like it exists just out of reach, and I love that the books deal with big ideas, and are so well written that 100 pages can go by before I notice I have been reading for awhile. And, your names and slang are absolutely spot on, they seem natural and authentic. And, NO ONE, can write a combat scenario that is breathtaking, vivid and page turning as you. To me, you rank with the masters, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Van Vogt and others from the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. 

And, just as an aside, I really like being able to vicariously enjoy your adventures both in Essex and Crete. 

Thanks, 

Doug Whipple

Take care Neal, you have brought a lot of joy and thought to my life.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Who Reads my Books? Jenny Rodgers


Hi, I’m Jenny. 

Growing up I read everything available, devouring all the usual school-suitable books by Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton etc, but by 10 I was reading my mum’s Catherine Cooksons’ and historical fictions for the challenge. (I also loved my dad's ancient copy of ‘Just William!’) By senior school I had found Dennis Wheatley and westerns (not usual for an 11 year old girl apparently). Through my school years I read P D James, Dorothy L Sayers, Barry Sadler ( I still love those!) and just about anything else, including text books when absolutely desperate, but never abandoning my westerns - which I think gave me a strong stomach useful in my later reading. I read at school, at home, on the bus, in bed and, probably to my detriment, all Saturday afternoon in the library when I should’ve been doing my homework.  


When I met my husband Rod (27 years ago) it was amazing to find someone who would sit and read with me in silence. He completely understands my love of reading because he has it too. Some of my friends are jealous (in a nice way) of our relationship. I think I’ve achieved what many people aim for - I’m happy and content. It’s not money in the bank that matters; it’s how satisfied you are with what you have. Being brought up in a low income but secure and loving family has made me a very low maintenance girl. We live in a shallow age where we are judged on looks / money / possessions and not by the person inside. It’s honestly depressing at times. 


Not really an edit, but having seen other ‘Who Reads My Books’ and how NOT boring they are, I just wanted you to know:

1. I was on a cooking show called ‘Granny’s Kitchen when I was five (1975)

2. For my 34th birthday I got a Mark 1 limited edition MX5 import (black with red leather and wheels). 

3. I zip wired the longest zip line (at the time) in the uk at 118 mph

4. Lots of great music out there but rock music and concerts are the best! 

5. I love console games and watch a gaming station called Twitch

6. Husband is a train driver!

7. I have a pet shrimp called ‘Clint’


Rod has always been a true scifi reader and so, on gaining him, I also gained access to a huge selection of books. But I pretty much ignored them for years, much to my shame - I had no idea what I was missing! My first foray away from crime thrillers, westerns and cookbooks, was ‘East of Eden’ by Harry Harrison (I had no idea who he was) but it was a real eye-opener for me. I read Iain Banks’ Wasp Factory, the Brentford ‘trilogy’ (7 in the series I think) by Robert Rankin. I loved having my mind opened by the fantastical! Every now and again over the years I would hear “the new Neal Asher is out on...‘date” and I had no idea what was to come. I had read more scifi by then, on and off, but was finally convinced to try reading ‘The Skinner’ about 18 months ago.  And I haven’t stopped reading Neal Asher since - I had a lot to catch up on. My mind has become wider, more violent, angry and brutal than before, but evolution does that to humans. 

I’m currently reading ‘The Thursday Murder Club’....just for a break.

Hope I didn’t bore you as much as I think I did.

Jen

Loved Africa Zero by the way.