In and Out Kind of Morning…

Definitely an in and out, black and white, up and down, good and bad kind of morning.

My old pc –not the Toshiba of Satan’s Arse, which is usually the cause of my tearing my hair out– which is normally pretty good, decided to lock up this morning. Nothing worked, so eventually I had to cut the power and reboot. And lo! The file which I’d been saving faithfully every ten minutes since creating it an hour earlier was blank, and I got a message which basically said ‘this file is corrupt; you’re stuffed, mate.’ Grrr.

Eventually re-wrote it, despite interruptions like the veg man coming, and being greeted in the usual shouty fashion by Tourette’s Dog. While I was outside bringin the veg, I photographed our crop of chillies which was nice (they would be those red things on the right, but for the fact that I’ve lost the connector cable with the phone – so you’ll have to make do with yet another look at Chris Moore’s cover for Damage Time) .

And the nice thing was finding another nice review or two. First there was Eric Brown’s review in Saturday’s Guardian, then an even better one in the Falcata Times. Actually that’s reverse order of writing, since the latter one was posted last Thursday, but it’s the order of writing.

So a mixed morning, which isn’t yet over — I have to go and read a script…

• October 12th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Genre Fiction

Into Bath yesterday to pick up some books, and (if I’m honest) to check on the state of play of Damage Time. Waterstones had four copies, although there was no sign of Winter Song, which is a tad disappointing, but hey ho. Then off to Toppings, where there were none. Hmm, have to speak to Rachel about that.

The man in Toppings offered tea or coffee to anyone who was interested, which I accepted. I of course then felt obliged to buy a couple of books, which was probably his intention all along. But by checking my Genre Fiction Reading List, I found a couple of gaps.

It’s actually a helluva reading list, comprising among others:

Alternate History:

Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

Christopher Priest, The Separation

Keith Roberts, Pavane

Children’s Fantasy / Crossover

Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea

Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Philip Pullman, Northern Lights


Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Dart

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Apprentice

Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood

Guy Gavriel Kay, The Summer Tree

Tanith Lee, Forests of the Night

China Mieville, Perdido Street Station

J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

Terri Windling, The Wood Wife


Karen Armstrong, Bitten

Clive Barker, Weaveworld

H.P. Lovecraft, The Haunter of the Dark

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Bram Stoker, Dracula


Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Iain M Banks, The Player of Games

Frank Herbert, Dune

Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Maureen McHugh, China Mountain Zhang

Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain

Bruce Sterling, (ed.) Mirrorshades

Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog

Robert Charles Wilson, Bios

David Zindell, Neverness


Isabel Allende, Eva Luna

J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition

Jorge Luis Borges, Fictions

Helluva list, isn’t it? Of course everyone has their own choices — I’d substitute Pacific Edge for Forty Kinds of Rain, and where are Bester, Silverberg and Delany? But on the whole, it’s a pretty good list; of the 34 titles, I’ve barely read half of them, and that’s just the spec-fic part.

The set texts include Carrie, and then next up is Jetse de Vries’ anthology Shine. I’m looking forward to this module.

• October 8th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

Damage Time Released in the UK

Damage Time is officially out in the wild today, although a few rogue copies cut the wire earlier this week and scrabbled out under the noses of the guards — Donna and Matt saw copies on their travels in Bath yesterday, while Cybermage has already posted a really nice review. The US will see copies creeping out from the 26th of this month.

And there was a nice piece of serendipity with the William Gibson talk that I attended down at the Watershed last night. Gibson spoke eloquently, if a little raggedly (I dread to think how many of these presentations he’s done) on a number of subjects, one of which is how much faster the world evolves now than -say- forty or fifty years ago.  “The only novels from that period who even came close to predicting the exquisitely fucked-up complexity of 2010 are [John Brunner’s] Stand On Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up,” he said.

Those novels cover different topics; while Brunner’s works cover over-population and pollution, I’ve chosen as themes a lurching toward post-technology. But the similarity is in the narrative style; I’ll freely acknowledge that the sidebar chapters owe a lot to Brunner’s montages, especially in the magnificent Stand On Zanzibar.

I’ll blog more on the Gibson talk on another day.

• October 7th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

The Week So Far

So far my Wednesday has consisted of frantic shovelling of overdue tasks and ignoring all Uni stuff, which is fair enough, since the reason I have such a backlog is that Uni has taken up all my time for the last two days for anything but the most critical responses, including some copy-editing of Dark Spires stories.  As always happens on new ventures I’ve made a number of mistakes which have now caught up with both me and the rest of the team.

Monday morning started with Film Making, which is going to involve some actual hands-on filming, editing etc. Then into Writer’s Workshop, about which I’ll pass over for the moment, except to say that I hope it improves — but I can’t drop it, as it’s the core of the course.  And then to Feature Journalism, which looks as if it may yet be the most interesting of all three lectures.

Yesterday morning was dire, because I was so exhausted.  I wrote this at the time:-

It’s 4.45 am as I write this, and despite -or perhaps because– being exhausted, my brain is boiling. I’ve been awake for nearly two hours, and I have a splitting headache which four paracetemol couldn’t shift last night. In forty minutes or so, I have to get up, so it seems like a good idea to rise early and type this.

The problem was the seven hours of lectures and seminars that I had yesterday, from 9 to 6. By the end of it, I felt like a zombie, but clearly the information and mental stimulation that I took in yesterday has percolated through my brain, and caused this morning’s insomnia. This afternoon, I have a three hour lecture and seminar, and then aside from a solitary lecture late on Thursday, that’s my week done.

Ah, I hear you mutter, it must be nice to have a five day weekend.

Except of course, that the first of those five days will probably be spent as a hollow-eyed wreck; and then there’s the small matter of revising Ultramassive. And all the work spent away from the class, which should be the majority of it. At the moment, I don’t know how the hell I’m going to manage another week of this, let alone a year.

Maybe some answers will come to me when I feel less like the intellectual equivalent of a battery hen, force fed on ideas and concepts instead of chicken feed.

I somehow managed to get through the day, including working on Ultramassive, which is my other writing Must-Do at the moment. Things began to turn around in the afternoon with a stunning lecture on Genre Fiction, one of the best I’ve had in just over a year at the uni. I’ll blog more on that on…let’s say Friday, hmm?

Then it was home for dinner, and work into the evening starting the shovelling.  But at least I have some answers to yesterday’s insomniac rant, which vindicates my two basic rules of communication:-

1. Never write anything on the web or in an e-mail that you aren’t prepared to see all over the web.

2. Whenever you’re feeling, emotional — angry, tired, depressed– sit on  it for 24 hours. 🙂

More news tomorrow on Damage Time, which has its UK release. And in about 90 minutes, I’ll be off to listen to William Gibson talk.

• October 6th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three…

In an attempt to nail the WordPress / Facebook interface issue, I updated the Damage Time  page this morning; it was long overdue — I hadn’t realized that the pages still said April / June release. Me bad.

Of course, Damage Time  is out on Thursday. Bloody hell, that’s Thursday! It’s sort of snuck up on me. And the release date for the US is the 26th. Where Winter Song was recently the #1 selling title in Barnes & Noble! (so those drop bins worked then…)

The page cross-posted, so this blog is to see whether the blog is now cross-posting as well, or whether that’s where the problem lies…so here goes nothing.

I’ll stick one of the pictures that accompanied the extracts from Damage Time on here as well. Originally posted in April, I’ll have to re-issue them, so to speak. But that’s for another day — today I have Genre Fiction with the lovely Lucy English. Oh well, at least I should be spared the patronizing ‘I don’t mean to disparage Genre Fiction – but…’ that one of yesterday’s lecturers came out with.

Ta ra for now!

• October 5th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Cradle to the Grave

Yesterday an item on the 6am news added to the feeling that life often seems to imitate art. It was a report that cited that ‘60% of  high earners would like to keep working past retirement age.’

Well, duh. I would like the option of working past retirement age, given that I count writing as work, as well as my passion.

But I don’t want to have to hold down a second job, or have to get up at some ungodly hour in the cold and dark, which are less likely to be faced by those in the higher-earner tax bands.

But what really depressed me was the motivation for the headline. Why didn’t the news item tell us how many low earners want to work past retirement age? Because that’s what that headline was really about — yet another attack by lobby groups working for those interested in lifting retirement age, and targeting the voiceless.

It feels as if there are wave after wave of attacks on the lower paid, the vulnerable and the other miscellaneous have-nots, led by primary influencers promulgating the idea that we should work longer and longer for less and less salary; it starts with how unfair it is that people retire, and once it has been established that people can work past retirement age, then the next step is to ensure that people must work longer.

Following on from the shamefully slanted headlines about how public sector employees are paid more than the private sector* it feels at the moment as if there is a media blitz against anyone but the most affluent, while the real architects of our current financial situation behave with impunity.

Our system is supposed to take care of us from the cradle to the grave — the difference will be how long we have to work in the run up to the latter. It’s an idea that fuelled Pete Shah’s fury in the opening to Damage Time as his retirement age is raised at three weeks notice to seventy-fiveYes, the pensions issue needs addressing. But not in the way it is being done.  Or we’ll have another life imitating art scenario, but of massive civil unrest — not just in the UK, but in the US, where the penions time-bomb is even bigger.

Right, I’m going to put my soapbox away.

* based on a survey comparing only full-time employees; most public sector workers are part-time, while the full-time ones tend to be consultants, specialists, etc.

• September 28th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 1

Going South

I’ve had my pre-holiday haircut, joining Kate and Tourette’s Dog in the Shorn stakes, and found on my return that even the vegetation was getting in on the act; a pair of tree-surgeons have arrived to trim one of the beech trees that gives the house it’s name. It’s a lovely-looking tree, but it’s now dangerously close to the overhead power lines. Good timing, considering that we’ll be on the road for Poole in another couple of hours — they couldn’t have cut it much finer… (boom boom!)

We’re heading south to dog-sit for the in-laws in Poole, and I’m looking forward to ten days of walking on the Purbeck Hills, lying in and take-aways.

I have no idea what internet connectivity we’ll have. In theory there’s wi-fi, but they’ve already had connectivity issues so hopefully I’ll be logged on as usual on Thursday.

Or it may be that the next time I surface will be at Fantasycon on Saturday.  Angry Robot have pulled stock of three new titles  (including Damage Time) which aren’t available for another three weeks out of a magic hat somewhere, and I’ll be joining Andy Remic and Mike Shevdon in the dealer’s room to sign copies.

To get to Nottingham for the 12 o’clock launch requires me to catch the 06.25 train… for which I’ll probably have to surface in the dark (whimper) …you’ll probably hear the groaning on Saturday all the way up in Nottingham! Still, it’ll be good to catch up with the extended AR family, plus various other old friends from previous Fantasycons.

So I’ll either see you here, or at Nottingham, whichever occurs first.

• September 15th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Free On-line Stuff

Lots and lots of free on-line stuff happening at the moment, so I thought that I’d do a round-up. ‘Stuff’ is like London buses. You get nothing happening for months on end and then -wham!- the world goes mad.

First up on this not-so-sunny Monday morning, my publishers –Angry Robot– posted the first fifty-odd pages of Damage Time on-line over the weekend to read for free.  The whole novel is out in the UK on October on October 7th, and in the US on October 26th. Although US readers can order the electronic copy direct from the Angry Robot web shop on the earlier date.

Today my short story ‘Chameleon’ goes on-line to subscribers at Daily Science Fiction. Since subscription is free you might as well join, rather than waiting for a whole week…or you can wait a week, and it’ll be there waiting for you…

 Meanwhile the lovely Dark Fiction Review have posted a terrific review of Winter Song. It’s terrific not so much because it says nice things about the book –although that’s always nice– but because they picked up on some things that others missed.

And finally, I’ve reviewed Stephen Baxter’s Flood over at suite101.

That’s all for now!

• September 13th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Back to Ultramassive, and Damage Time

I’m still getting settled back into some sort of routine this morning. After a brief diversion into the land of short story writing, I took a day off yesterday to attend my step-father’s funeral.  Not the sort of day off that I like — I much prefer them to involve lying prone somewhere in sunshine on one hand, a long drink in another, and a good book — wait, that’s too many hands…

But despite being slightly worried about resuming novel-writing, once I got going, I found slipping back into the groove of writing Ultramassive surprisingly easy. I think that I’ve achieved a certain residual momentum. Or maybe the day ‘off’ did some good.

My only reminder of work yesterday was when Lee rang me from the Angry Robot office for one last minor edit for Damage Time. It came as Kate and I were buying some sandwiches for lunch in a bomb-site/Sainsbury’s-under-construction, on the edge of Exeter. I thought, ‘shall I tell him where I am?’ but decided against it. He might have felt guilty, whereas I was actually glad of the distraction.

And Damage Time cropped up again this morning, with this timely link provided by the lovely Liz van Zandt, via Facebook. I proposed in the novel that society might be entering a phase whereby economic factors affect people’s living arrangements, and even marriage. In the draft it raised more eyebrows and hackles with the crit group than perhaps any other point, which surprised me.

I suspect that I’m not done with blogging about this yet. In fact, I know I’m not…thanks Liz. 🙂

• August 4th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

New News

The newest bit of news on release dates is that Damage Time has been scheduled for release on October 7th. I can’t wait!     🙂

And the other bit of news is that I’ve passed my first year.

For anyone who is interested the full results are:

    Module Title Credit Mark Grade Result
  YR CS4001-40 WRITER’S WORKSHOP 1 40 74% A P

I think we’ll be going out for tapas tonight!

• July 9th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 5