Plugging A Gap

It must be something about the heat -it’s 22.1 c here- that melts my brain cells.

The last three days have seen me chewing into my TBR pile in the shape of the next issue of F&SF, and I finally finished it. Over to the site, to download the cover art — hold on? Where’s the cover art, Gordon?

So I checked the date of sale. Oh, crap. It’s not actually up until May 3rd. I can’t believe I made such a novice error as not checking the on sale date. Oh well, I’ll just have to fill in, I thought.

Which is why you’re reading this, and not the review of F&SF I’ve been working on. It’s good sometimes to be reminded to check things, and in that spirit, I’ve read the extract from ‘Spindizzy’ for the open mic night I’m participating in later.  I’m not making that mistake again. At least, not until the next time.

• April 19th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Period of Transition

The week gone by has seen me begin to switch from my winter schedule as a student, to my default one as a writer.

I handed in my last assignment of the term last Tuesday, but spent the next couple of days unable to settle, as I tried to make sense of what had become midly urgent,  urgent and downright critical while I focused on academy.

The new schedule has meant catching up on a lot of non-overdue jobs, such as switching over printers and replacing cables on the desktop (ah, the glamourous life of a writer!) and doing the accounts, which have slipped out of shape the last few weeks (or even months — I’m still finding that I have files  that disappeared back in January, when I had two hard drives get corrupted in the space of a month and which need to be updated).

And of course, I only have a few days in which to do it as Eastercon looms; for those thinking of catching me to sign a copy of Damage Time (or indeed, any other titles) signing needs to catch me at either the Further Conflicts launch on Friday –it’s now at 5pm on Friday in the Wellington Suite, or at the Angry Robot Signing at 4pm on the Saturday in the Churchill. Or you can trust to pot luck, and look for me in the bar on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning…

In the meantime, I have a Monday night meeting of the Bristol SF and Fantasy Society in the Shakespeare (we’re no longer meeting in the King Billy) to attend tomorrow night, and then I’ll be attending an open mic night at the Grant Bradley Gallery over on Bedminster Parade at 6pm on Tuesday.

So it’s a busy week, and I have yet to do more three last assignments for Uni for next term, before I give myself over to the writerly side. So I’d better get on!

• April 17th, 2011 • Posted in Appearances, General, News • Comments: 0


Like the rest of the students on my course (and everyone else, I guess) I’m still in the middle of the pre-Easter deadline crunch. That hasn’t been helped by problems with the Minerva system causing one of the assignments to disappear into a cyberhole, only for the new deadline to be in the middle of the maelstrom.

The upshot is that blog posts may be far and few between for the next couple of weeks.

But while I’m here…

…part of my workload is to finalize the selction for Transtories over the next couple or three weeks, since I have some forty-five stories to read through. (I’ll post the full stats tomorrow) I may post acceptances on Twitter.

Right, better get on with it. I’ll be back sometime to talk more about anthologies…

• April 2nd, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Guest Blog

Award winning author Aliette de Bodard was kind enough to offer me the chance to guest post on her blog. For reasons that I make clear on the blog, I decided to talk about Winter Song, which proved to be an interesting exercise. It’s been so long since I’ve worked on the book that it was like revisiting an old home. The actual blog post is here — do drop by to read it, and while you’re at it, have a poke around the rest of Aliette’s site, which is one of the most fascinating on t’net.

• March 30th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Sunday Afternoon

We got the unexpected bonus of a bit of unforecasted sunshine this afternoon, so after several hours of cutting and pruning, and re-jigging, to take a break from the Hamster-Wheel of Doom that is my Writer’s Workshop assignment, I persuaded Kate to go and visit a garden near Saltford.

Aside from a railway line just over the back fence, and the A4 with its relentless traffic at the front, it’s a pretty nice place. Visualize -if you will- the hawthornes and cherry trees in blossom, the flowers nodding in a gentle breeze. And over the fence, rabbits hopping around in the field. They’re safe enough, especially with the two cows leaning on the fence, running interference for the rabbits in between chewing the foliage on the fence.

Well, it was a nice break, but now it’s time to return to the Hamster-wheel; now I’m hunting quotes from my reading material, in order to convert a narrative to an essay. Or maybe I’ll just leave it as a narrative…

Have a nice Sunday Evening, whatever you’re doing.

• March 27th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Sparrowhawks, Life, and Death

This morning we noticed that the various bird life (blackbirds, finches, pigeons and tits of various sorts) were getting a little antsy.

Then Kate noticed the Sparrowhawk sitting on a branch in the apple tree just above the bird feeder — as if he was sitting, waiting for breakfast. We get the occasional birdstrike in the garden, a random scattering of feathers, but this is the first time he’s taken to waiting.

It’s oddly appropriate, gievn my reading material of late. In an attempt to re-evaluate some of the standards of the SF and fantasy genres, I’ve been re-reading some of the standards. Before Microcon, it was Dune, The Man in the High Castle and Pavane (I was giving a presentation on Alternate History).

Since Microcon, my reading has been the original  Earthsea trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore), together with the two more recent novels, which are most definitely not children’s books (many people still argue about whether the original trilogy is; since Sparrowhawk is a youth in the first novel, and teenagers feature in the second and third volumes, I’d classify them as YA).

But Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea (which actually isn’t the last book) and The Other Wind (which at this point is) are books about loss of vitality, about change, about growing old and even death. Tehanu is as bitter as wormwood, a novel in which Tehan is powerless throughout most of the book, the victim of random (male) violence and pointless cruelty.

Tehanu won the 1990 Nebula, a rare accolade for a fantasy novel, but IMO The Other Wind which shares a theme with Keith Roberts “The Passing of the Dragons” (bit of a spoiler there) is the better novel. Or maybe it’s just more to my taste. But that’s not to say it’s any lighter. But neither book is in any way YA.

Hawk, as Sparrowhawk now calls himself, is now seventy, still a vital man, but long past his physical prime, spending his days fixing the farmhouse and trying to persuade the goats to stop breaking into the vegetable plots. Hawk spends most of the book off-stage, left behind by the events that have seen dragons attacking people’s crops on other islands. Instead it’s Lebannen from The Farthest Shore, Tenar and her daughter from Tehanu and a number of other characters who dominate the novel. It’s a novel about the inevitability of death, and the actual desirability of a finite lifespan. Unlike our modern society, Hawk, Tenar and the mages are actively sought for their wisdom.

Those two points got me to thinking about our society. I’ve written before about the way our media fixates on youth and tends to depict the old as a burden, even a problem. That’s started to change slightly with a recent BBC series –when teenage meets old age– but much of the media coverage highlights the ‘problem’ of pensions.

We’re now all going to be made to work much longer –I estimate my retirement age will be seventy, Kate’s will even be seventy-five– and this is justified by the claim that we’re all going to live much longer. But while all the debate is about the length of our life-spans, no one seems to consider the quality of life, rather than the length of them. Does anyone really fancy dragging their osteo-arthritis ridden bodies out of bed on a Monday morning into their eighties? What about the increasing spread of dementia?

Perhaps we ought to change the parameters of the debate from how long, to how good?

• March 26th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Missing and Still Missing

Last week James Bubear, a 1st year student at Bath Spa University, went missing after a night out at a club. Police are becoming increasingly concerned because James’s disappearance is completely out of character and he has had no contact with any friends or family since he went missing.

It is also known that James lost his mobile phone during the day on Sunday and that although it has now been picked up by somebody, it has not been handed in.

Police are urging whoever has it now to contact them and return it. They said that the person is not in trouble.

James had been on a night out with friends at Vodka Revolutions bar on George Street on Sunday night in Bath.

The 18-year-old was last seen leaving at around 10.30pm and walking off alone. James, who is originally from Llandrindod Wells in Wales, was walking back to his student flat in Waterside Court on Lower Bristol Road, and it is believed he may have followed a route along the river.

Anyone who has seen James or knows of his whereabouts is asked to call Bath police on 0845 4567000

Sadly, James is not the only person missing, and just when his profile needs to be kept elevated in the media, his story was eclipsed by that of a search being mounted in Savernake Forest for 22-year-old Sian O’Callaghan. Without wanting to dismiss the threat to her safety, it’s a shame the BBC couldn’t have spared a few moments to report on the fact that there are now two people missing — instead of granting one searcher two soundbites, and several minutes of time to the whole story.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that there are double standards at work when  it comes to missing people; young trumps old, pretty trumps plain, and girl trumps boy.

Or perhaps that’s just my imagination?

Whether or not it is, it doesn’t help find James.

Ask around; pass this on; don’t let him be forgotten.

• March 22nd, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

The Weekend Finishes, The Week Begins

Well, that was nice; two days of reading (the original Earthsea Trilogy for any of you who are interested, reacquainting myself with Le Guin’s almost pitch-perfect  prose) interspersed with dog walking in the sunshine and dinners out in the evening.

We left Poole at about 7.20 this morning, and when we’d cleared the traffic down in Dorset (not helped by lorry drivers incapable of reading the signs advising them that the road ahead wasn’t wide enough for them) made good time to the campus.

Which was oddly deserted. A fairly large minority of students weren’t in today, presumably because they were working on assignments, but the effect of the first sunshine on a semi-deserted campus and my being back after a ten-day absence was to make the place feel quite unfamiliar.

I’m sure things will settle down again in a day or two, and it’s no bad thing to have a feeling of dislocation for an SF writer.

• March 21st, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

The Weekend Starts

Okay, okay, so I haven’t been into uni this week — I’ve still been working,  and I need my weekend as much as you do. So I’m not going to feel guilty about heading for the coast. We’re down at Kate’s parents in Poole in Dorset. And it’s a glorious evening.

So I’ll see you on Monday – kay?

• March 18th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

The Ides of March

On Friday I wrote the first part of a blog post, just before heading out to the theatre to see Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (which was terrific, by the way):  

“This will be the third blog post in as many days, and it feels as if I’ve finally got back into the swing of things. I still have to post something on the film blog, but that can wait another day or two. Meanwhile yesterday felt like one of those rare days when you can go through the ‘to do’ list, ticking stuff off.

I finished reading Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm at something of a gallop, having been struggling with it a little — I think it was the cold, fogging my brain.

I survived my six-monthly visit to the dentist yesterday, and shot into Bath to get tickets for Alan Bennett’s The History Boys at the Theatre Royal.  Tomorrow is going to be spent mostly watching televised sport, and reading subs for Transtories, my next anthology. I may post some stats tomorrow or Monday. Or even Tuesday…Tuesday sounds good, as it’s halfway through the submissions period.

Sigh. So much time. So many choices.”

Hah. I should have known better with the Ides of March just around the corner….

Instead I woke up on Saturday with the most blinding headache…every time I coughed, it felt as if my skull was literally being split with an axe. On Sunday I started to see shadows moving out of the corner of my eye, and decided that I had to go and see the doctor.

Luckily the combination of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories is starting to take effect, and I seem to be over the worst of it. With any luck, I’ll get back to work tomorrow But that’s not definite — I must remember not to make any plans in future before the Ides of March. …

• March 15th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0