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.