Monday 8 April 2024

CP, Gollanczfest, Eric, new book etc

 Now that a month has gone by since Locus published a number of appreciations of Chris Priest, I think it's safe to offer up my own contribution. I could have said a great deal more, of course, but that would still only scratch the surface of the times I spent with Chris over almost a quarter of a century, on and off. His friendship meant a great deal and while our tastes in science fiction were not always aligned (but sometimes were) I took every chance to learn from him as a writer. I think his books and stories will endure and I encourage anyone who hasn't read them to take a deep dive into his work. All of it is worth anyone's time and the very best of it will leave the reader profoundly changed.

Friday 16 February 2024

First newt of 2024

 I mean to say something about Chris Priest, but in the meantime, I did a bit of pond-dipping for the first time this year (it's remarkably mild and a friend turned up a frog yesterday) and found one of the resident newts doing well.

Friday 26 January 2024

The Artwork Revisitation

 If you've been reading this blog for at least a couple of years you might remember this bit of acrylic art I put up early in 2022:

It was OK but something about it wasn't quite clicking with me. Then I read a recent article in The Guardian which included the brilliant Chris Foss talking about AI-generated imitations of his own style, and how they could never be mistaken for the real thing.

I looked at the images in the link to Midjourney provided in the article and agreed that they only looked superficially Chris Foss-like - big bristly spaceships floating over alien landscapes etc - but the particular thing that the artist noted was that the images lacked depth, something undoubtedly characteristic of his pictures. He nonetheless noted that the AI-generated images might serve as useful prompts for composition and lighting, so he wasn't dismissing them entirely. 

It occurred to me then that one of the faults with the painting above is the absence of depth - there's some atmospheric misting to push the towers back a bit, but the spaceship is just floating there more or less side-on, with no real reference points to place it in the scene relative to the other elements. Sometimes I use one or two point perspective construction lies to give a sense of a spaceship emerging from a scene, but in this case, I just winged it and drew it without any reference to perspective, figuring it would come out all right. I'm still happy with the ship, but in light of the Foss article - and a bit of renewed mojo for breaking out the airbrush - I thought I'd take another look at the canvas. And, rather than show the finished result, I thought it might be more fun to illustrate the process, even if it all ends up going horribly wrong.

So here's where we are now:

I did a bit of additional masking and spraying on the ship itself, bringing out its forms a bit more clearly by defining shadows and highlights, but the main thing has been to start work on some foreground elements which project out into the scene and serve to push the ship back. In this case I picked a single perspective point and drew some lines projecting out to the vanishing point, which (when finished) will be walkways or landing pads of some kind. I could envisage some smaller spacecraft and/or figures in the nearer foreground.

I also added a touch of contrasting colour in the sky, but this came out much too heavily and will need to be pushed back a bit.

I still don't know whether this will end up being a piece of art that I'm satisfied with, but the journey is fun and these corrective steps and additions can be very educational, so even if this painting fails, the lessons learned will hopefully inform the next one, and the one after.

Thursday 18 January 2024


 My new novel is out - published on Tuesday in the States, and today in the UK. It's the third in the Prefect Dreyfus sub-series and also a book in the Revelation Space universe. It's likely to be the last word on the RS universe for a bit, not because I'm fed up with it, but because I want to concentrate on standalones from now on.

There have been a few early reviews. Publisher's Weekly called it "a touching and spectacularly intricate sequel that also functions well as a standalone", while Booklist said "Reynolds pulls out all the stops ...readers’ fingernails will be left ragged."

The Daily Mail called it "an immersive, compelling, slow-burn space mystery" while SFX called it "a brilliantly realised melding of police procedural and hard SF".

That's it for now. I've not so far had any promotional activities offered to me but we'll see what eventuates. I'll also put up information on signed editions as and when there's something concrete to report.

best, and thanks to all who have pre-ordered.

Al R

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Wednesday 13 December 2023

It's coming on Christmas.

 A new story of mine, "Lottie and the River", will appear in the Christmas issue of New Scientist, with a publication date of December 16th. Not only that, but it's a (mildly) Christmas-themed story. I'm extremely happy to have had this chance to contribute a bit of fiction to NS. Many thanks to Alison Flood and all at NS for having me onboard.

I won't say anything else about the story except that it's 3500 words and not connected to anything else I've done, but it is science fiction, and the illustrations are gorgeous.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Space Rocks and other adventures

 After a relatively quiet summer, September and October were filled with travel, including a couple of international trips - a bit of a novelty these days.

Enjoying a typically delicious Dutch appelgebak in Leiden

I started off with an enjoyable weekend as Guest of Honour at the UK Fantasycon in Birmingham. I was very pleased to be invited, and the reception couldn't have been nicer. The event hotel seemed very good and quite well located for the centre. I sat in on a few panels, attended others, and had a very nice time at the banquet and awards ceremony. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but I'd like thank all involved, and in particular Allan and Karen, for making me most welcome. In this day and age the genre boundaries seem to be increasingly porous, but it was still very nice that a "sci-fi guy" was invited into the fold and made to feel like one of the gang.

After that, I had a few days home before I was off again. This time it was to France, for Les Aventuriales, a lovely laid-back SF&F event near Clermont-Ferrand, in the Massif Central. The event itself took place in a small town called Menetrol, a few kilometres from Clermont-Ferrand.

Near the venue, a few of us noticed this striking wall mural:

Rather wonderfully, you only got the full view of the cat when you'd peered around the edge of the (real) wall:

The festival itself took place in a sports centre, with Medieval tents and tables set up outside during what was a spell of very pleasant late September weather. As is the norm with French SF&F events such as this, there's an emphasis on dealer tables and signing, so you tend to stay parked in your seat unless you're doing a panel or suchlike. That can sometimes be a bit of a strain, but it was far from the case in Les Aventuriales, as I had such fine company. To my right was Sara Doke, writer and translator, who was always on hand if I needed help, and on my left fellow writer Jolan Bertrand, who was equally delightful to hang out with. Here I am pretending (I stress pretending) to play Jolan's ukelele.

With my little stick of Blackpool Rock ...etc

Everyone I met was extremely nice and welcoming, and a bottle of Leffe went down very well at the end of proceedings. When does a bottle of Leffe not go down well, of course. Here I am with French fan Olivier - also a Peter Hamilton fan, so I made sure to show this to PFH when we met for a coffee recently:

And finally, here are my two hosts for the weekend, Marie and Jean-Pierre, who couldn't have been kinder. There were some unavoidable complications with my outward journey which caused us all a bit of stress, but it was all resolved efficiently, with the only downside being a very late arrival at the hotel. I'd like to thank Marie, Jean-Pierre and Dominique for sorting things out - and my wife for handling the emergency back in Wales! She was going to come with me, but we'd had a disastrous experience with an earlier attempt to travel to Paris in June, and she decided to sit this one out. This brings me to the minor observation that flight delays and cancellations have been a real headache with these trips, with each aggravation making the idea of flying next time just a little bit less attractive.

My lovely hosts for Les Aventuriales.

After some further complications on my return leg via Paris, I was back in good old Brexitland for just over a week before another trip, this time back to the Netherlands and a return to my old place of work, ESA's ESTEC Space Technology and Research centre, based on the Dutch coast in Noordwijk, close to the fine old university city of Leiden.

I was over there to participate in another Space Rocks event, this time in conjunction with ESTEC's annual open day. I've been honoured to be part of the Space Rocks family since 2018, but things have understandably been a bit quieter through the Covid years. Space Rocks is ramping up again now, and I couldn't have been happier to be invited. My hosts were Mark McCaughrean of ESA, and Alexander Milas and John O'Sullivan of Space Rocks. I was interviewed by Mark as part of the Space Rocks program of events, where we talked about the interplay between science and science fiction. After the interview, I was delighted to be presented with the inaugural Space Rocks inspiration award:

Mark McCaughrean presenting me with the award

There was also an opportunity to sign a few things just after the interview and presentation:

I was extremely honoured with the award and would like to express my gratitude to my friends from Space Rocks and ESA.

After that, it was time for a wind-down. My wife (who'd joined me for this trip) and I spent Monday quietly, then hooked up with Mark, Alexander, John, and ESA's Anja Appelt for a lovely evening over pizza and beer in one of Noordwijk's many beachfront restaurants. The Space Rocks dudes (and Mark) are prog/metal-heads so there was much to discuss besides the important matters of the day, such as which topping to order.

My wife and I spent another day in Noordwijk, enjoying ice-creams and the roar of the waves before the warm weather turned a little chillier in the afternoon. It was great to be back in Noordwijk! I spent the better part of two decades there, and it really is a special place, with the sea a constant presence through the seasons. Being as it was something of a flying visit, I must apologise to friends still in the area who we didn't manage to hook-up with, but there really wasn't time.

This is my truth, tell me yours.

All in all, a great series of trips, but it was with a certain amount of relief that I got back to Wales and could begin returning to a fairly regular writing pattern. Since my last update, I've done a bit of work for an entirely different part of ESA, and I've also written a new short story which - if all goes well - should appear on the newstands in the run-up to Christmas. More on that in due course. I've also completed a second story for Auki Labs, which has yet to go live (I'll link to it when it it does), and I've made slow but steady progress on the new novel.

I'm sure I've forgotten to thank a few people in all the above, but please forgive me if that's the case, and rest assured I was looked after very well at all times. Thank you all.

Al R