Tuesday 28 December 2010

Minor update

November and December were busy months. In addition to finishing the new book, I was also happy to accept the kind offer to guest edit an issue of SciFi Now magazine. I selected some books for review, wrote a review myself, did an editorial and contributed to a couple of book and film related articles. I don't know when this issue will hit the stands but I thought I may as well mention it now - keep an eye out if you're interested, and (of course) happen to live where SciFi Now is readily available.

Now that the new book is off to the editor, I'm in the usual period of minor limbo where one hesitates to embark on another big project for fear that any momentum gained will be immediately stalled when the request for editorial rewrites comes in. What I normally do in this period is crack on with some short fiction. That's not really an option at the moment, though. Yes, I do have a few short fiction commitments, but more pressingly I need to get started on book 2 of the trilogy as soon as possible. That's not only because the schedule is tight, but because I'm chomping at the bit to move the story on and exploit the fact that the details of the invented future are still more or less fully loaded into my working memory.

However (there's always a "however") there's another project looming, slightly less formidable in scope but still fairly "big" and that needs to be off my desk before I can do any serious work on book 2. I'm reluctant to say too much about it until the details are nailed down but it's an interesting one, something you won't necessarily expect, and with luck and a fair wind there may be two novels out from me next year.

I'm away for a week; once I get back I may have some more information. Cheers and Happy New Year, one and all.

Al R

Saturday 25 December 2010

Tuesday 21 December 2010


Sorry about the lack of updates around here. I've just delivered a novel, so normal service (or what passes for it) will resume very shortly. Cheers!

Friday 10 September 2010

With Dr Karl

I was a guest on two of Dr Karl's radio shows - Triple J and BBC Five Live, both on thursday 9th September. Podcasts are (or will be) up here shortly:


Dr Karl is a national institution in Australia and a great bloke as well; it was a delight to sit in with him and I hope we get to do it again sometime. Thanks to Brendan Fredericks and Caroline Pegram for a great day, and to the ABC staff for making it all run smoothly.

Saturday 28 August 2010

A New Life Awaits you in the Offworld Colonies

Bladerunneresque cityscape, Singapore:

Wednesday 25 August 2010

11K update

My editor and I have been trying to nail down a title for both book 1 of the trilogy, and of the trilogy itself - that "11K" thing, as I hope was clear, was really just my own shorthand for the project as it developed. Well, I think we're there now. There's been some to-ing and fro-ing about whether it's "A: the first book of the B trilogy", or "B: the first book of the A trilogy." But at the moment the state of play is that my next novel will be BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH, book 1 of POSEIDON'S CHILDREN.

There. From the horse's mouth, so to speak.

Worldcon schedule

Here are the items I'm down to participate in during the forthcoming Aussiecon.

What can the mystery teach science fiction?

Mysteries and crime novels remain overwhelmingly popular, and boast a
literary history at least as rich as that of science fiction. What can
the mystery genre teach writers of speculative fiction? How can the
two genres intersect? In an imagined world of high technology or
powerful magic, are the conventional narrative tricks and twists of
the mystery story even possible?

Don A. Timm, Alastair Reynolds, Sean Williams, Peter M. Ball, Jack Bell
Friday 1700 Room 204

Fred Hoyle: Scientists and science fiction

 Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was a noted astronomer and scientist who also
embarked on a long and successful career as a science fiction author.
Using Hoyle as a springboard and example, what is the result when
scientists turn their hands to writing science fiction - what are the
implications for the science in their books, and for the
representation of scientists and scientific process within them?

Cristina Lasaitis, Greg Benford, Jeff Harris, Alastair Reynolds
Saturday 1200 Room 204

The Fermi Paradox

 The great physicist Enrico Fermi asked “Where are the aliens? Why
didn’t they get here long ago?” This is a huge puzzle since the
universe is so old that it is difficult to understand why they have
not already visited Earth, or at least made their presence known out
in space. This is the Fermi Paradox. Have we made any progress
untangling it?

James Benford, Gord Sellar, Dirk Flinthart, Alastair Reynolds
Saturday 1700 Room 219

Far future: Where fantasy meets SF?

Clarke’s Law famously states that any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic. When writing about the distant
future, where do we draw this distinction? Can we? And, perhaps most
importantly, should we?

Rani Graff, Bob Kuhn, Alastair Reynolds
Sunday 1100 Room 211

Objects in space: The giant artefact in science fiction

Science fiction regularly deals with the ‘big dumb object’, the
strange alien monolith that is discovered on a distant planet, or
which floats ominously into our solar system. What is the appeal of
the giant alien object, and why does it inspire it so many science
fiction stories and novels?

Sean Williams, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Stewart, Mark Olson
Sunday 1700 Room P3

Hand-waving, rule-bending and other dirty tricks of hard SF

Hard-science SF isn’t always scientific. Authors who work in this
field use a wide variety of methods to duck and weave around the
facts, allowing their fiction to be unscientifically scientific while
remaining close to what science is needed to make the stories and
novels work. When you speculate beyond what is known and believed by
contemporary scientists, how do you go about making things up?

Greg Benford, Charles Stross, Alastair Reynolds
Monday 1400 Room P3

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Two cool House of Suns related things

Title says it all: two cool House of Suns related things.

Some while ago I mentioned that Stargate Universe's Joseph Mallozzi was making HOS his book of the month for July. That was amazingly nice of Joe and a few weeks later I got a bunch of questions to answer from his blog regulars. Joe collated my answers, and you can read them here:


I'm still stoked about this, and I hope some of my responses are interesting. Bear in mind I do go into some spoilery territory, so beware if you haven't read the book and still have some intention of doing so. Once again, thanks to Joe. And for those who didn't read my original post on SG:U, I rate it very highly and am looking forward to the new season, which begins in just over a month.

Right, so that's one cool House of Suns related thing ... here's the second. A little while ago I heard from Morgan Smith, guitarist in San Diego based band Midnight Rivals (something of a supergroup, with proper rock pedigree) that they were working on a song called House of Suns. Morgan sent me a link to some other work by Midnight Rivals, which I liked a lot, so you can imagine how ridiculously happy I was about this. Morgan tipped some nods to my work into the lyrics, but not gratuitously so - this ain't a sci-fi rock song.

You can listen to HOS here:


I think it's pretty great, and I look forward to the album and maybe even checking out Midnight Rivals the next time I'm in San Diego, which just happens to be one of my favorite places on the planet anyway...

I'll be back tomorrow with my Worldcon schedule, for those who are going to Aussiecon.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Kilimanjaro - The Teardrop Explodes

Over the weekend I picked up the deluxe reissue of The Teardrop Explodes' magnificent Kilimanjaro, their 1980 debut album. I already own a copy of this, but for various reasons I felt compelled to have it. For a start, it's got the better, not entirely terrible cover, and with two additional CDs worth of bonus material, and a nice booklet, it covers pretty much all you need to know about the early phase of the Teardrops' brief but glorious career. Really, this is one of the truly great rock albums, and I really ought to know as I've been listening to it for long enough. Not only is there not a weak track, there isn't a single track that isn't full-on genius. From start to finish it's just bug-eyed brilliance all the way through, and there's nothing remotely awkward or dated about the production. What an absolutely fantastic time it was, the cusp of the eighties, as punk shaded into post-punk. All doors were open and anything seemed possible, and vaultingly ambitious albums like this seemed to pop out at about one a month.

The only minor grumble, as far as I'm concerned, is the entirely justifiable omission of "Reward" from the reissue CD (although it's on one of the bonus sides included in the pack). "Reward" was not on the album when originally released, so it's "authentic" in that regard - even though it should therefore have the crappy cover, rather than the zebras one. But since I've only ever had a copy of the later 1981 release, having "Second Head" followed by "Poppies", rather than going straight into "Reward" ... it's just wrong, man. The seamless transition from "Second Head" to "Reward" is one of the most exciting moments in pop, and it's not here.

Never mind, I suppose - I still have the old album.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

I'm always a bit alarmed when my tastes align with the zeitgeist, as appears to be the case here. According to the estimable Radcliffe and Maconie, tracks from this album are the second most downloaded items of music anywhere on the internet, pipped only by Lady Gaga. Which makes me a bit cautious in my enthusiasm, if I'm going to be honest, because when it's that sort of mass culture, everyone's listening to it type thing, I usually find my interest levels waning pretty quickly. And yet ... track six, "City with no children", has to be one of the most immediately thrilling pieces of music I've encountered in many a moon ... but is that a good thing? Does great rock music disclose its pleasures so readily? It's too damned long, as well - a fault shared by the two previous albums, both of which I now find dauntingly unapproachable in their very hugeness and sense of self-importance. I've yet to listen to the The Suburbs in its entirety. And there are seven of them. There have never been any good rock bands with more than five members, and five's pushing it.

Still. There's so little big, modern, commercial rock music around lately, it seems churlish to complain about abundance.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

Trigan Empire State of Mind

A few weeks ago I was browsing a second hand book shop in Brecon when my eye chanced upon this:

It wasn't too expensive and the hardcover was in pretty good condition, so I snapped it up. But who remembers The Trigan Empire? Not many of you, I'm willing to bet. For a start, you probably had to be a Brit, and not only that but a Brit growing up in the sixties/seventies. For me, though, The Trigan Empire was very much part of my induction into the world of SF - although I came to it by rather roundabout means.

The Trigan Empire was a comic strip running in the children's magazine "Look and Learn" between 1966 and 1982, although (according to Wikipedia) it actually commenced in Ranger in 1965, before Ranger was swallowed up by Look and Learn. Magazines and comics swallowing each other up was very much part of the texture of British publishing then, and probably still would be, if there was a magazine and comics industry worth speaking of. Stephen Baxter has just done a very good overview of the insanely complex history of Eagle magazine in the most recent issue of Vector, but no comic was immune to these factors. My own experience of the process came via the swallowing up of "Speed & Power" magazine, which my parents had been buying me from issue one. Here's a typical S&P cover nabbed from the internet:

Speed & Power was great, especially if you were eight and almost insanely obsessed with machinery and technology. More particularly - as I've mentioned elsewhere - it did me the singular service of reprinting classic Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov short stories, which was pretty much my portal to the world of written science fiction. I still own every issue. Speed & Power, though, was obviously not a big commercial success and alas it was eventually doomed to be swallowed up by Look And Learn in November 1975.

I didn't much care for Look And Learn, if I'm going to be honest, and bitterly resented the way "my" mag had been reduced to a miserably small logo on the new masthead. Plus, there was lots of stuff in Look And Learn that didn't particularly rock my nine year old world. Stuff about the Bible, stuff about history, lions, kings and queens - all deeply boring, in my considered opinion. I wanted stuff about aircraft carriers, tanks, lasers, sci-fi, not all this boy's own all the world's knowledge rounded education type nonsense. Nonetheless, there was one rather fantastic thing about Look And Learn, and that was The Trigan Empire. I loved it immediately, if only because it offered the one piece of recognisable sci-fi amid all the improving, educational dross I detested.

The Trigan Empire was great for several reasons. Firstly, it was beautifully illustrated - the artist, Don Lawrence (who drew the strip until 1976) had a fantastic eye for scenery, figures and technology, and the use of colour was tremendous. The stories were also easy for me to get my nine year old head around - there was a sense of history behind the strip (it had been running for ten years) but it wasn't hard to get up to speed. Best of all, though, it was proper sci-fi, albeit of a somewhat unusual kind. The strips looked like retellings of Bible stories, except that the various characters and tribes also had access to advanced weaponry and nuclear-powered aircraft. I cropped a couple of frames from internet pages, which I hope constitute fair use in the context of this post.

As the Wikipedia entry puts it:

"The fledgling Trigan nation is established under the leadership of Trigo, with the trappings of a Romanesque civilization with swords, lances and Roman-style clothing, but with high tech ray guns, atmosphere crafts and high-tech navy. In a later story, they create a rocketship in months to fly to one of Elekton's moons. Several of the other civilizations show a blend of low tech and high tech."

It was SF, though. In the first strip, which is reprinted in the volume I found in Brecon, we learn that the action takes place on a planet in a different solar system, inhabited by 12 foot tall humanoids. In fact these humanoids are now extinct: the entire history of The Trigan Empire has been translated by a human researcher, based on documents recovered from a crashed Trigan spacecraft. It all happened long, long ago, lending the whole thing the heft of legend. Nothing overtly fantastical happens in the strips; everything is rationalised. Indeed, one of the main characters, the immensely old and bearded Peric, is a scientist figure. As such, it sits squarely in the tradition of Dan Dare, that other great British SF comic series of the immediate postwar decades.

It's all hideously old-fashioned, of course, from the "typeface" lettering in the speech bubbles, to the resolutely non-PC depiction of women and people of colour in the various adventures. The heroes - Trigo and his mates - are all blonde, square-jawed and muscular; the adversaries are generally dark-skinned, Mongolian-looking baddies. Women exist mainly to scream or scheme. It's futile to complain about these things now, though - I doubt that The Trigan Empire was any more sexist and racist than any other comic strip dating from the same period. What's not in doubt is that by the time I came aboard, the days of Look And Learn - and by extension The Trigan Empire - were already numbered. In punk terms, with its meticulously rendered artwork, sensible plotlines and stoic fifties worldview, it was like Emerson Lake and Palmer versus the snot-nosed Sex Pistols of 2000AD. It couldn't last, and it didn't. But since I threw out all my Look And Learns, I'm very glad to have at least this small part of my past back with me again, and if the stories now seem quaint, Don Lawrence's artwork remains as marvellous as ever.

In other news, I'm delighted to report that my story "The Fixation" won the Sidewise award for best short form alternate history - many thanks to the judges for selecting my piece, and commiserations to the other shortlisted authors. Chuffed to bits about that, me.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Busy busy busy (again)

Apologies for the lack of updates round here in recent weeks - nothing untoward, just a perfect storm of deadlines and travel and so on. I've been working on the new book, obviously, but there have also been articles to finish, a talk to prepare, short stories to write and various real life intrusions. Meanwhile, I've made tragically little progress on responding to emails, for which further apologies. I'll get there slowly, but it's going to be quite some time before the present backlog is cleared. And in the medium term future, my trip to the World Con in Australia is coming up fast. I sometimes feel that I've been trying to get ahead for most of my writing career. Certainly, life didn't get any simpler when I turned full-time.

Couple of things to mention: as highlighted earlier, Stargate Universe's Joseph Mallozzi has very kindly made HOUSE OF SUNS his July book of the month, and there's some discussion taking place on Joseph's blog right now. Once all the questions are in, I'll respond with answers.


And for those in the South Wales area - you lucky people - I'll be at the Orangery in Margam Park on Wednesday July 21st. I don't have a website link but here's the relevant info:

Neath Port Talbot Libraries: Literature Day with Jasper Fforde, Alastair Reynolds, Phil Bowen and Simone Mansell Broome. Also featuring the longlist announcement of the 2010 Dylan Thomas Prize. 10.30 am - 2.00 pm at The Orangery, Margam Park, Port Talbot. Free admission. For further details contact Paul Doyle at p.a.doyle@npt.gov.uk or on 01639 860000. Supported by Academi (contact 029 2047 2266 for information on funding for events).

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Give it away now

SFX, Gollancz and Waterstones have teamed up to run a promotion on HOUSE OF SUNS. If you buy the current number of that fine periodical (SFX 198, it says on the website) you'll find a coupon that you can take to certain participating branches of Waterstones, and thereby claim a free paperback copy of HOS. That's right - free. Nowt. But there are only 4000 copies, so if you want one, best not hang around.

SFX also ran a brief interview with me in connection with this - read it here.

Sunday 27 June 2010

It's approaching

Jonathan Strahan has some great news: at last, Godlike Machines, which contains my long story "Troika", looks like it's going to happen. Here's the order page on the Science Fiction Book Club:


And here's the very cool cover:

The downside is that you won't be able to get this unless you're in the SFBC, and to do that you'll need to live in the US and have a credit card - or know someone with an SFBC membership. However, I know that Jonathan is keen to get the book to a wider audience if at all possible, so an orthodox publication isn't ruled out.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Apocalyptic SF - we don't just do cheery and optimistic, you know

I'm still blogging over at Babel Clash (see last post) but in the meantime, it looks as if Mike Ashley's Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF has appeared, just in time to be packed for your beachside summer reading. Most of the stories are reprints, but the book does contain new fiction by Eric Brown, Paul di Fillipo, F Gwynplaine MacIntyre, Robert Reed, and myself. Sadly, the book also includes the last new story by the late and much admired Kage Baker.

My piece is a longish story entitled "Sleepover", set off the coast of Patagonia in the 23rd century, after the world has (nearly) ended. The finished cover is slightly different to this, and I was also sent an otherwise identical copy of the book entitled "The Mammoth Book of the End of the World", but I think this is the title they decided to run with.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Blogging at Babel Clash

For the next week or so I'll be blogging at Babel Clash, the Borders science fiction blog. My first post has just gone up.


Thursday 20 May 2010

I just took a ride in a silver (or light grey) machine

This is me just before getting into the front cockpit of this Boeing-Stearman Model 75, a WW2 trainer that is now based at Fantasy of Flight near Orlando. I took a half hour flight and was "hands on" for a good chunk of that time. It was an absolute blast. We did left and right turns at 30, 45 and 60 degrees, as well as some "lazy eights". Prior to this my only experience of flying came through Microsoft Flight Sim, and it's a testament to the realism of that software that it felt incredibly familiar, especially as I was using a stick rather than a yoke.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

House of Suns under discussion

Joseph Mallozzi, executive producer on Stargate: Universe has kindly selected House of Suns for discussion as his July Book of the Month.



Saturday 15 May 2010


STS 132 launch, post-roll and srb separation. Many thanks to Piers Sellers for giving my wife and I this opportunity to view a shuttle launch, and to Louise Kleba for doing the same last year. It doesn't get much more awesome than this.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Stargate, Atlantis

Just a brief update here. I'm in Florida, intending to catch the STS-132 launch on friday. Not that I'll be on Atlantis, mind, but certainly aiming my camera at it and hoping - unlike last time - not to lose said camera a few hours later. If I do get some usable pics, I'll post them up here. Excited? Just a bit.

Meanwhile, thoughts on Doctor Who in the last post prompt me to mention Stargate: Universe, which has resumed its second half-season run (or whatever they call these things) and is - in my view - really quite good and worth checking out. Other than the Kurt Russel film, and the occasional incomprehensible episode caught on some hotel TV channel over the years, I've never seen anything related to the Stargate franchise so I came to this more or less cold, and it's very, very enjoyable. The premise is excellent, big dumb object stuff: a crew of military and civilian types end up stranded aboard a huge alien spacecraft zipping away from Earth. It's the present day, more or less, so they have only limited tech, and of course only what they managed to bring with them during the hasty boarding process. The ship (Destiny) is huge and mysterious but essentially benign - it's like an abandoned ocean liner, with some really inventive and convincing "alien art deco" set and prop design work. Because they've been exposed to other relics left behind by the same aliens, the humans have some idea how to get the ship to work for them, but not everything is (yet) in their control. The ship appears to be retracing the network of FTL stargates left behind during an earlier phase, so it makes period hops through hyperspace before emerging within gate range of some planet or other. Typically, the crew have several hours to use the onboard stargate (or shuttle) to explore the planet, before the ship goes FTL again. In its planet-of-the-week structure, it's a bit like Space:1999, only done right. The character interactions work well, with tension developing between the civilians and military staff - but in a believable, not too melodramatic way. After a botched civilian takeover, the two parties have - shock, horror - to work together and rebuild trust. Robert Carlisle is very good as the scientist Rush, as well, albeit a little too obviously the sociopathic mathematician type. It's a long way from Hamish Macbeth and Begbie, that's for sure.

What's great, though - and has me wondering why this series hasn't been making bigger waves - is the way science is handled. Granted, the show has to work with the existing setup of the Stargate universe, so you've got FTL and some kind of psychic communication network which allows the crew to periodically hop into the bodies of people back on home on Earth. But all that's handled intelligently, and what's really impressive is the amount of actual, honest to god science the writers have managed to work into the episodes. In a recent installment, for instance, the ship came out of FTL around a young star that wasn't even around when the Destiny's charts were compiled. The star was identified as still being in its T-tauri phase, which immediately made a paradox of the fact that it appeared to have an old, Earth-type planet in orbit around it. Now, the episode didn't go on to provide an unequivocal explanation for this riddle - other than by suggesting that the planet had to be some kind of artefact - but it was the mere fact of framing this puzzle in the first place that had me impressed. This is actual stellar astronomy, slotted neatly into TV SF. I don't know the exact extent of his involvement, but one can only presume that "creative consultant" John Scalzi has a lot to be thanked for here - if so, good on him, and good on the show's people for taking the step of bringing someone like Scalzi in. I also can't help but think that if SF:U had been on telly ten or even five years ago, before the recent rash of successful, intelligent SF shows (not all of which have been to my taste, it has to be said) fandom and the blogosphere in general would be going absolutely bananas for it. It's exactly the kind of TV SF show we've been moaning about not getting for years - and now it's on and the general concensus seems to be borderline disinterest. I might be reading things wrongly, though. I hope I'm not, and I hope the show picks up enough viewers to sustain its run, because I want more of it.

So, anyway. Stargate: Universe. Me likey.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Who are you?

I've been watching the new Who and - for the most part - enjoying it rather a lot. Matt Smith is excellent in the role; as we were promised, he inhabits the character from the off, and within a few scenes of the first episode he simply was the Doctor. I felt exactly the same way when Tom Baker took over from Jon Pertwee. That sense of fluid continuity is one of the great strengths of the show. I'm still wondering where they're going with the Amy Pond character, but for now I'll be glad if she turns out to be just a companion, rather than someone with secret powers or some mysterious connection to Time. As for the differences between Moffat and RTD-era Who, maybe I'm thick, but I'm not seeing some huge step-change in style and approach. It's still New Who, still a very different beast to the old shows before the cancellation. And I like it, generally. I like the way the writers haven't been afraid to put their own stamp on things, even at the expense of irritating long-term fans such as myself - see, for instance, the rebooted cybermen. At the same time, there's a willingness to dig deep back into Who history and toss in references to things we haven't heard of since the Troughton earlier, or even further back. It's all good and I sit there on saturday evenings like I'm eight again. All I'd need is a plate of bangers and mash and I could be sitting down to watch Invasion of the Dinosaurs or the Monster of Peladon.

But ... and this matters, I think - there's something I'm not seeing nearly enough of. Terry Pratchett touches on something similar in this SFX piece but my complaint isn't precisely the same. It's not that the science in Doctor Who is especially ropey now, as compared to before. It always was ropey, from day one - a point I made in my review of "The Science of Doctor Who" book a few years ago. Having the Tardis drag Planet Earth across the universe may have been a low point but I could point to scores of similar absurdities in Old Who, and not just from the bad old days when the show was unloved and near its end.

What's lacking, I think - or not being handled in the right way - is the Doctor's attitude to science. This came up in a conversation I had last year with one of the UK's top public astronomers, like me a lifelong fan of Who and willing to take the new version on its own terms. What we agreed on was that - for us, growing up in the sixties, seventies and so on - the Doctor had been an important role model, one of the few scientists portrayed on television in a remotely flattering light. Beyond the Doctor, there was Mister Spock ... possibly Brains from Thunderbirds ... and that was your lot, basically. The Doctor was the only one you'd conceivably want to be, though. He was the only one who wasn't emotionless or nerdy - and he had a Tardis, groovy companions, and a universe to explore. And he was a scientist - maybe not by profession, but by training and inclination, and through all the adventures, what shone through was that the Doctor always fell down on the side of reason and enlightenment. He had no truck with magic, superstition, religion (although he conducted his affairs with a basic sense of tolerance and fairmindedness) - and he wasn't afraid to parade his own intelligence. Look at the aforementioned Monster of Peladon, for instance. It's the Doctor's insistence that the Aggedor apparitions can't be real - that there must be some technology behind the hocus pocus - that eventually leads to the resolution of the story (it was the Ice Warriors wot dunnit). Yes, the science might be ludicrous - but it was the Doctor's respect for science and rationality that mattered, and ultimately carried the day. This, to me, was as important a strand in his character as his pacifism and decency - not more important, but equally so.

I get flashes of this in New Who but not nearly enough to reinforce this as an essential element of his personality. Nothing could sum this up better than the "timey-wimey" line from the Tennant era. Yes, it was a good bit of dialogue, and raised a smile at the time. But this is The Doctor, for pity's sake - when has he ever felt the need to be so vague, or so apparently ashamed of his own intellect? I was disappointed with that, as I've been disappointed with the questions the Doctor doesn't ask. The Weeping Angels, for instance. They're a brilliant and scary creation, hats off to Moffat. But why doesn't it ever occur to anyone to wonder why they look like stone statues? What's that all about? Are they stone all the way through? Entirely stone? I know the show has to work to a much tighter format than it ever did in the past, and there simply isn't room for every last bit of dialogue - but still, surely there's room for just one or two hints that the Doctor is a questioning man, a scientist at heart.

Anyway, as I said at the start - I'm still enjoying it. But I'd like to see just a bit more of a sense of where our man stands. Is he for the enlightenment, or against it?

(As an addendum, here's a quote from one of the comments in the SFX thread, which says it better than I just have:

"In the old days, of course, the approach, the attitude, was always fairly rationalist. Whatever fantastic events were going on, the Doctor always regarded the universe as ultimately logical and explicable, and would never do anything really nonsensical. Nowadays that’s out of the window and anything goes.")

Monday 26 April 2010

The Paul Weller Story

Paul Weller has been much in the news these last weeks, since he has a new record out. I've been enjoying his previous album, 22 Dreams, and will be looking out for the new one. Apart from a rather good compilation, tracing his entire career from The Jam through The Style Council and the solo stuff, that's about all I own by him, which isn't much when you consider the scope of his recorded output. He's very much part of the rock establishment now, of course - the "Modfather", in his early fifties. Melllowing too, by all accounts - he used to be notoriously prickly. But there are a handful of Jam songs that I think are absolutely wonderful - Eton Rifles, Going Underground, the usual ones, in other words. But while I like the fact of Weller, and I suppose I'm sort of a fan of the recent stuff, I wasn't a fan in any sense of the word in 1994, merely enough of a rock nerd to be aware of Weller's place in the pantheon, and respecting him on that level.

It was the end of the summer of that year. My wife and I (we weren't married at the time, but let's keep it simple) were on our way to LA - she'd spent a lot of time there before we'd met, but it was my first trip to that side of the States. We were on our way to stay with friends - she an actual detective in the LAPD, he heavily involved on the production side of what was then one of the highest rated US sitcoms - he's now a producer on another high-rating sitcom. They're still great friends of ours and we get to see them whenever we can, which is typically every four years or so.

I was really excited about going to LA. I'd been to New York a couple of times, Washington and Boston as well, but LA promised to be another universe. But this isn't about LA; it's about a close encounter with rock greatness. For as we were checking in late in Heathrow (our connecting flight had been delayed, and there was a mad, sweaty rush to get to the gate) I realised that the other passenger, also in the same predicament as my wife and I, was a proper rock star, someone who'd come to prominence in the seventies but whose career had stretched well into the following decade. This was 1994, though, and I wasn't really sure what - if anything - this man was now up to.

That man was ... not Paul Weller. It was in fact Midge Ure, him out of Ultravox. Properly pleased with that, I was. Not wanting to embarrass him - we were standing right next to him as our boarding passes were processed, late for the soon to be closing gate - I waited until my wife and I were seated on the 747 before mentioning how close we'd been standing to Midge Ure out of Ultravox. Actually, I'm not sure my wife was all that impressed. She didn't know much about Ultravox, but did at least remember that "Do They Know it's Christmas" song. Midge Ure co-wrote that, I told her. And I was thrilled; I know the purists say Ultravox was better in the John Foxx era, but it's what was in the charts that I remember, and those were the Ure hits - Vienna, Reap the Wild Wind, The Voice. Cracking early eighties synth-pop, and let no man say otherwise. This isn't about Midge Ure, though. It's about Paul Weller.

We landed in LA, and found our way to the line for the immigration control. As usual, it was about a million miles long. It was then that I noticed that the guy in front of us, immediately in front, was none other than Weller. He's pretty unmistakeable, really - I just knew it was him, even though I hadn't really been following his career all that closely. His hair was long, Mod-cut, not too different from the way he looks now, except with a bit less grey. Tall and skinny, though, and well dressed. Looked a lot sharper than I did, after a long-haul flight. But no doubt he was just as keen to get through the immigration crap, get his bags and get the hell out of Dodge.

So, anyway. Again, I don't want to embarrass the rock god, so I don't say anything out loud, although I may have nudged and whispered to my wife a bit. Eventually Weller and his travelling companion (his daughter, I believe) went to one of the desks and we waited our turn. I was getting a bit nervous at this point. I'd had enough experience of entering the States to fear the process. The general surliness of the immigration officials, the awful, illogical layout of the Visa-waiver cards, which seem engineered to encourage mistakes ... just thinking about all that was enough to make me feel shifty and semi-criminal. And that was setting aside any worries about our bags not showing up, and how long we were keeping our friends waiting on the other side of customs. Thank God it all got so much friendlier and more traveller-friendly in recent years.

But in due course we get allocated to a desk, and - although it didn't have to be - it turns out to be the same one that Weller went through.  And this, more or less, is what happened.

The guy takes my passport. He's not even really looking at, just flicking through it in a semi-distracted manner. He's a young man and not too unfriendly.

"You guys just come off the London flight?" he asks.

I nod nervously and answer him. "Yes, sir."

"You see who else was on that plane, just ahead of you?"

At this point, stupidly, I say "Midge Ure" - which is sort of true, although I haven't seen the Ultravox frontman since leaving the plane.

"Midge who?" the guy on the desk asks. "No, I'm talking about that guy who just came through."

"Oh," I say. "You mean, Paul Weller?"

He looks really pleased. "Yeah, Paul Weller, man!" At this point, he's just stamping my passport on autopilot. Then he says: "I'm a big Paul Weller fan."

I say: "Oh." (I'm thinking: yeah, I kind of like him as well - Eton Rifles, Going Underground etc).

He says: "No, I mean - I'm a BIG Paul Weller fan. I'm maybe his biggest fan in the whole world! I even own one of his old guitars!"

He told me this; I have no idea whether it's true or not - although I've always liked to think it was. But the guy goes on to explain that he's massively into Weller, has all the stuff, rarities etc - he's not bluffing, no sirree. And, mainly, I think he's just absolutely thrilled that he can unload this onto someone else who sort of grasps Weller's significance. I'm more than happy to go along with it, of course - I realise, for the first time (and last, as it would transpire) I'm dealing with an immigration official who is possibly more flustered, sweaty and over-excited than me.

Then comes the kicker. After telling me all this stuff, he says: "But I froze. I couldn't look him in the eye, couldn't acknowledge I knew who he was. I just stamped his documents and sent him on his way."

I don't know what to say. I can understand where he's coming from, but he's just blown possibly the one chance in his life to tell his idol what he thinks of his music. My wife and I make sympathetic noises.

Then the immigration guy pulls himself together. "But I've got a second chance!" he tells us, winningly.  "I know what flight he's going out on! I'm going to pull my shift and make sure I'm on the desk when he goes through again - and then I'm really going to do it, I'm going to say hello to Paul Weller!"

We wish him well. There's a lot of handshaking and general niceness. I really, truly hope that he did get to work his shifts and meet Weller, and that the exchange went well for both of them. I've had a few pleasant chats with immigration people since then, but (alas) more than a few less than pleasant ones, but I always try to remember the LA guy, the Paul Weller fan who couldn't bring himself to make eye contact.

And that's (almost) my Paul Weller story ... except for this. A few months later, we're somewhere else, collecting our bags from the carousel. My wife nudges me and points to another passenger waiting for their luggage. "Isn't that ..." she begins. I squint and can't quite believe it. It's Weller, again. We've been on the same flight, twice.

I don't bother him, but I rather wish I had, that time. I should have asked him if he remembered the LA official, and if not, I should have told him my side of the story. That was sixteen years ago, of course - and to the best of my knowledge I've never been on a plane with Paul Weller again. Mungo Jerry, yes. Joni Mitchell - possibly. But not Weller.

If there's ever a third time, I will ask him. I think he'd like it. He's mellower now, they say ...

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Nice while it lasted

Actually, I like planes. Here's Alain de Botton, via Stuart Jeffries in this week's Guardian:

"How we would admire planes if they were no longer there to frighten and bore us. We would stroke their steel dolphin-like bodies in museums, and honour them as symbols of a daunting technical intelligence and a prodigious wealth."

Full article here.

De Botton's quote (which I agree with) also reminds me of a rather lovely lyric from a song by The Church, The Dead Man's Dream:

Once I had a name, forgotten now
I breathed the air in a century of wonder
I can hear it now in the darkness of the earth
Gorgeous machines, the sound they made like thunder

And here's a gorgeous machine that flew over my house earlier today:


Tuesday 20 April 2010

Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky

After a while, he noticed that some people had gathered at the bow of the boat, pressing against the railings. They were pointing up, into the sky. Some of them had pulled out phones.

‘There’s something going on,’ Mick said.

‘I can see it,’ Andrea answered. She touched the side of his face, steering his view until he was craning up as far as his neck would allow. ‘It’s an aeroplane.’

Mick waited until the glasses picked out the tiny, moving speck of the plane etching a pale contrail in its wake. He felt a twinge of resentment towards anyone still having the freedom to fly, when the rest of humanity was denied that right. It had been a nice dream while it lasted, flying. He had no idea what political or military purpose the plane was serving, but it would be an easy matter to find out, were he that interested. The news would be in all the papers by the afternoon. The plane wouldn’t just be overflying this version of Cardiff, but his as well. That had been one of the hardest things to take since Andrea’s death. The world at large steamrolled on, its course undeflected by that single human tragedy. Andrea had died in the accident in his world, she’d survived unscathed in this one, and that plane’s course wouldn’t have changed in any measurable way (in either reality).

‘I love seeing aeroplanes,’ Andrea said. ‘It reminds me of what things were like before the moratorium. Don’t you?’

‘Actually,’ Mick said, ‘they make me a bit sad.’

(excerpt from Signal to Noise, copyright 2006)

Monday 19 April 2010

Chasm City

Fred (and my American editor) kindly drew my attention to this; it's mentioned in the comments to the previous post but worth linking to from here, I think:


(It's a web comic that mentions CC; more or less worksafe I'd say, other than that it's a COMIC and therefore not likely to be strictly work-related ... unless you work in comics, of course.) I am, of course, enormously chuffed by this sort of thing and encourage more of it.

Other than that, and my continuous, pathetic attempts to "get up to date with email", there's not a vast amount to report. Chugging onward with the new novel, basically, which is going pretty well, and feels (thus far) fairly unlike anything I've ever done before, even though the surface props - spacecraft, robots, colonies etc - are perhaps what I'm mainly known for. It's not space opera, though, which I think is the key thing. Hard SF set in space (just the solar system, in this book), with a mildly thrillerish plot engine, but that in itself does not space opera make. And I'm trying to keep it "realistic" - plausible extrapolation of current political and economic systems (China's still there, so is India), bits of early 21st century tech and culture still hanging around on the margins - Cessnas, jeeps, electric guitars - but at the same time throwing enough offhand weirdness into the thing (merpeople, giant battling robot worms on the Moon, etc) to make the world (counter-intuitively, it seems to me) believable. That's a longstanding hobbyhorse of mine, of course - scruple to keep things rigorously plausible and you don't end up with a plausible-seeming future. But at least in this book I'm not putting any weird or made-up science into the stew ... yet.

Thursday 8 April 2010


I've been waiting for the dust to settle for posting my thoughts on Eastercon, but if I keep waiting, we'll be here to Christmas. It was, in short, a very, very good convention. Very well organised and run, from what I could tell - and I didn't hear a great deal of grumbling from any quarters. The thing that struck me, on arrival, was that it looked busy - the lobby was packed, the hallways were packed, the stairs were packed, and I gather from chatting to one or two dealers that business wasn't at all bad. 1200 attendees was the last figure I heard, which is pretty damned good.

Most encouragingly, the various program items I saw were very well attended - including the single program item I managed to get to in which I wasn't a participant. That was my one regret, really: not being able to just sit and take in panels and discussions as part of the audience, because I do genuinely enjoy just sitting back and hearing interesting and opinionated people talk passionately about the stuff that matters to them. Knitting. Real ale. Cats. No - SF and F, of course! As it was, I was either preparing for an item, on my way from one, trying to grab some nourishment, or signing books. Mainly, it was signing books. There was no formal signing session, so people who wanted their books signed were obliged to track me down between program items. There's a Pythonesque scene in Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia where a Soviet-style queue forms entirely spontaneously, and that's how it started to feel at times: it only took one person to whip out a book, and within seconds an impromptu line would begin to form. I sound like I'm whingeing here, but really I'm not; it was just weird the way it kept happening. I was genuinely grateful for the attention.

It was also good to catch up with friends old and new, although as always there were people I meant to chat to that I only spotted in fleeting, espionage-style glimpses, from across a crowded lobby. Also, because it was located near That London, I got the feeling that a lot of the Smoke-based writers and SF people only popped in for specific items. Really, though, a fantastically enjoyable experience. Onward to the next Eastercon, and - even more so - to the London Worldcon bid for 2014. I fully intend to be at both.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Busy busy busy

Passed a wordage milestone on the new book, which is always good, and at last the thing's starting to feel that it has some momentum - I've been hitting 3000 a day for the last couple of weeks, whereas the first three to four months felt like chewing my way through solid granite. And, of course, there's been the odd interruption connected with the release of Terminal World, and a couple of conventions. Eastercon, too, is coming up fast, and I must do some preparation for that.

In the meantime - and following on from the Crispy Ambulance mentionment a month or so ago - here's a Guardian piece on another Factory band from that wonderfully fertile era, the somewhat underappreciated Section 25. I've always liked this band (and this track especially) so was saddened to learn that Section 25's Larry Cassidy has just died. As Jon Savage says, "let this transcendent masterpiece be his fitting testament."


By the way, tragically behind on email (as ever). If you've been in touch but haven't had a reply, please bear with me - and thanks for your patience.

Friday 12 March 2010


The new SFX is out, with a stunning holographic cover of the new Doctor Who. There's also a two-page feature on me (actually one page, plus big scary photo) and - elsewhere - a review of the new book. Honestly, it's worth having just for that fantastic cover.

On the subject of Who, I've been bingeing on (mainly) Pertwee era adventures of late, courtesy of a rash of reissues from the BBC vaults. Aside from old favorites like The Green Death and The Sea Devils, I've enjoyed rewatching (and comparing against my very dim memories) Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, The Silurians (actually, I didn't remember this one at all - I have no recollection of any of the Liz Shaw adventures) and am now doing the "Peladon chronicles" boxset. Loved Monster of Peladon when I was eight. I'm fond of Tom Baker, too, but Pertwee was the Doctor for me: the one I watched when my critical faculties were still undeveloped, and hiding behind the settee was an entirely reasonable viewing option. Davison was good as well (and the others, of course) but by then my relationship with Doctor Who was as much one of frustration as pure, unbridled enjoyment.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Signing at Forbidden Planet

Just a reminder that I'll be signing at Forbidden Planet in London on saturday 13th March between 1 and 2 pm.

In the comments to the last post, Richard asks about how many items he can bring. To be honest, I've always been happy to go with the flow and sign whatever's offered - preferably some form of written matter although I'll make exceptions. At the same time, it's clear that a person who wants, say, eighteen items signed, can cause a measure of aggravation for those waiting in line behind who may just have one or two items and/or trains, buses to catch. So at Boskone the organisers stipulated that I would sign a maximum of three items at a time; anyone who wanted more than that would just have to go back to the end of the line and wait their turn again. This worked pretty well; no one was left with stuff unsigned and by the end of proceedings, there were only a handful of people in the line anyway so the wait time was small. Ultimately I'll leave it to the shop organisers to dictate proceedings but I can't imagine that we wouldn't be able to work out something similar in Forbidden Planet. There probably won't be that many people there anyway: when I signed for The Prefect, which was the first signing of any kind I'd done in the UK in two years, we got twenty attendees. A year later, with House of Suns, we got twenty three. So - while I'm grateful to each and every one of those people who did show up - I'm not expecting hundreds on saturday. Of course, it would be brilliant if I was proved wrong...

(You're probably wondering: how can Reynolds be so anal as to remember how many people turned up at a signing two years ago? The answer is that I promised myself that if more than twenty people showed up for the House of Suns signing, I'd go and buy that shiny blue Telecaster I'd had my eye on. While it wasn't exactly a landslide victory, I was able to go and hit the Charing Cross music shops afterwards. Which was nice.)

Friday 5 March 2010


In lieu of anything sensible (and while I catch up on email) here's a wonderful song - one of those pieces of music that you'll either identify, or will perhaps recognise from TV and film soundtracks. I listened to it a lot while writing House of Suns - there's an echo of the "lyric" in there somewhere, I think. And the video contains more genuinely weird and startling imagery than in any science fiction film I've seen lately.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Shine On

This dropped through my letter box today:


It's the Shine anthology of optimistic, near-future SF, edited by my good friend and scary, Viking-like (or is it Klingon-like) Dutchman, Jetse de Vries.  I've yet to do more than skim the contents but there looks to be some very interesting work in this collection. My own story, At Budokan, is a glimpse into the future of the global rock promotion business - my thinking being that any future which still has the global rock business in it can't be much worse than our own present.

More details:

I hope Jetse does well with this - I know how incredibly hard he's worked to pull it together, and that he's as passionate about the potential of SF as anyone I've met.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Picocon update

For those that are planning to attend Picocon in London on saturday 27th, and for anyone toying with the idea, I've been told by the organisers that there's a good chance copies of TW will be on sale. Whether or not this turns out to be the case is entirely outside the organisers' control, since it will depend on books being released and shipped from the publisher's warehouse, but I thought it worth mentioning. It should be a fun day in any case.


Wednesday 24 February 2010

Can't buy a fear of music

Here are the records I picked up on my recent trip. As you'll see from the price stickers, some were bought in London (fopp) on the way back. I didn't go sniffing out record stores in the States, and the two I expected to find - the big Virgin on Times Square and the Harvard Record Exchange in Boston - were both long gone. I was also mindful of not bringing back too many items since, aside from customs regulations, our bags were already stuffed to the gills before we left.


In amongst the newer stuff, there are a couple of older albums which are very special to me, and which I am only now buying on CD. I have never owned a vinyl copy of either of them. Steely Dan's Can't buy a Thrill (1972) was their first album, and the first one I bought, on a double cassette with Aja on the flipside. It's a New York album: they were an East Coast band at the time, although by the time of their big, immaculate breakout hits like Hey Nineteen and Babylon Sisters, they were far more strongly associated with LA. It's still one of my favorite albums of all time, although I could say the same about pretty much any Dan release. I bought it in 1985, shortly after journeying to Newcastle to start my degree studies. In my mind it's now indelibly associated with those first few months at university, along with the chart hits of the time - Grace Jones, Waterboys, and so on. I owned a record player, but did not take it with me to Newcastle so for a period many of my music purchases were on cassette. Later I found a few friends who were able to tape records for me so I switched back to vinyl, but that came later. As these were mainly goth/punk friends into Bauhaus, I had to endure their ridicule with my propensity for laid-back American rock. I was right, though.

In that same period I also bought Talking Head's Fear of Music, which is again a New York album, this time from 1979. To me, seven years isn't remotely enough time to account for the radical differences between these records. Can't Buy a Thrill, brilliant as it is, is an album that has the early seventies written through it like a stick of rock. It's jazzy, laid-back, borderline stoner - you could imagine the Dude listening it in between his Creedence tapes. Fear of Music looks and sounds like something from another century. Look how modern that artwork appears even now, how sleekly minimalist. Was there any period of music more convulsive than the interval between these two records?

Anyway, here are my two trusty cassettes from 1985 - they both survived the big Fenham flat burglary of 1987, you'll be gratified to hear, although much of my tape collection didn't -  along with the two CDs I bought last week.

Sunday 21 February 2010

11K background listening

Back in the UK now, fighting jetlag: failed to stay entirely awake during the noisy and hyperkinetic Sherlock Holmes, which is probably saying something. In the absence of anything more relevant to post, therefore, here's a lovely song that I've been enjoying for the last year or so, especially when I've been trying to get into the appropriate mental groove for the first of the 11K books. I first heard this song on one of the Real World samplers; gradually it wormed its way into my brain to the point where I had to go and buy the album. Say what you will about Peter Gabriel, who pops up here on this live version, but he's done a lot to open my eyes and ears to different kinds of music. I think this is simply wonderful...

Saturday 20 February 2010

American Airlines

Boston departure lounge, watching American Airlines planes come and go. I recently wrote a short (as yet unpublished) article on the 1972 film Silent Running, which has American Airlines space freighters in it. 2001: A Space Odyssye had Pan-Am spaceliners, but Pam-Am bit the dust years ago. AA are still with us, though, and, to first approximation, still have basically the same logo and typeface. The internal chronology of Silent Running places the film in 2009 or 2010, more or less. Good job we have those space freighters to hold the last forests, then.

Friday 19 February 2010

Leaving New York

As always I'm leaving NYC but wishing I had an extra day. Tomorrow we ride Amtrak back to Boston, and then it's Logan to Heathrow, followed by a couple of days in London. This was my fifth visit to New York and I felt like I'd done all the obvious tourist stuff on previous stays, so this time we tried to hit a couple of museums we hadn't explored before and take in at least a few films. For the record: Avatar (second viewing, both 3D although we've yet to see it in IMAX), followed by Clooney's Up in the Air (superb) and - tonight - Jeff Bridge's Crazy Heart. My wife and I both big Bridges fans - I've been following his career since Winter Kills, and there are half a dozen other Bridges films that we both love, from Starman to Lewbowski - so we didn't need a great deal of persasion to check out this wonderful low-key semi road movie about a washed-up country/blues artist faced with one last shot at not screwing up. It's a great, utterly convincing performance from Bridges; Maggie Gyllenhaal is also excellent and there's a nice cameo from Robert Duvall.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Travel Time

This is possibly one of the most downbeat, miserable-sounding songs ever recorded - needless to say, I love it unreservedly. Crispy Ambulance is/was a Sheffield-based band active around the time of Joy Division, an act with which they were unfavorably compared, but with the benefit of time I think it's clear that they had their own gloomy synth and guitar thing and are worthy of more than just a footnote.

I listened to this a great deal while writing the first draft of REVELATION SPACE: it seemed to chime perfectly with the tone of melancholic emptiness I was shooting for, and of course there's a nod to sci-fi in the song title. If you dig this, check out "Concorde Square" and "The Wind Season" and tell they aren't utterly fantastic pieces of driving guitar rock.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Terminal World: chapter one

Here's the first chapter of the new book, due from Gollancz in the UK in March and ACE in the US in June.

Chapter One

The call came in to the Department of Hygiene and Public Works just before five in the afternoon. Something messy down on the ledge, maybe a faller from one of the overhanging buildings up in Fourth, maybe all the way down from Circuit City. The dispatcher turned to the wall map, surveyed the pin lights and found a clean-up van close enough to take the call. It was one of the older crews, men he knew. He lifted the black handset of his telephone and spun the dial, taking a drag on his cigarette while the switchboard clunked and whirred.

‘Three oh seven.’

‘Got a smear for you, Cultel. Something out on the ledge, just west of the waterworks. Not much else out there so you should spot it easy enough. Take the service duct on Seventh and Electric and walk the rest of the way. Keys on the blue hook should get you through any municipal locks.’

‘We’re loaded here. And we’re about a minute from coming off shift. Can’t you pull in someone else?’

‘Not at rush hour I can’t. We wait for another van, smear’s going to start attracting a crowd and smelling bad. Seagulls are already taking an interest. Sorry, Cultel, but it looks like you’re going to have to suck it up and earn some overtime.’

‘Fine. But I was serious about being loaded. You’d better get another van to meet us, case we have to move some stiffs around.’

‘I’ll see what I can do. Call in when you’ve peeled it off the concrete; we’ll start the paperwork at this end.’

‘Copy,’ Cultel said.

‘And watch your step out there, boys. It’s a long way down, and I don’t want to have to call Steamville and tell them they need to deal with a couple of smears of their own.’

In the clean-up van, Cultel clicked off his handset and hung it back under the dashboard. He turned to his partner, Gerber, who was digging through a paper bag to reach the last doughnut. ‘You get all that?’


‘Another fucking ledge job. They know how much I love ledge jobs.’

‘Like the man said, suck it up and earn some overtime.’ Gerber bit into the doughnut and wiped the grease off his lip. ‘Sounds good to me.’

‘That’s because you’ve got a sweet tooth and expensive girlfriends.’

‘It’s called having a life outside of scraping pancakes off pavement, Cultel. You should try it sometime.’

Cultel, who always did the driving, grunted something derogatory, engaged the flywheel and powered the van back onto the pick-up slot. Traffic was indeed already thickening into rush hour, cars, taxis, buses and trucks moving sluggishly in one direction, almost nose to tail in the other. Being municipal, they could go off-slot when they needed to, but it still required expert knowledge of the streets and traffic flow not to get snarled up. Cultel always reckoned he could make more money driving taxis than a clean-up wagon, but the advantage of driving corpses around was that he mostly didn’t need to make conversation. Gerber, who generally had his nose into a bag of doughnuts, didn’t really count.

Singular happenings

I can remember when it was quite a novelty to find that someone had transcribed a panel discussion, let alone recorded it: panels used to be these ephemeral things where you could come out with almost any amount of incoherent, ranting rubbish and - aside from those in the room - no one would ever know. Not any more, though. Now they're out there, for posterity - or whatever counts as posterity where digital artefacts are concerned. I should add that, where panels were recorded at Boskone, it was with the full consent of all involved.

Anyway, I was the moderator on this one, along with Vernor Vinge, Karl Schroeder and Charles Stross, and we were there to discuss the Singularity, the notion that at some point in the near future, everything's going to go bananas. Here's the discussion, as captured by Michael Johnson - and see Charlie Stross's blog for some interesting follow-up on some of the issues raised herein.


Deep Navigation

It's mid February, a month or so before the UK publication of TERMINAL WORLD. I'm in NYC, having come down by train after attending Boskone in (unsurprisingly) Boston, which was great - a brilliantly run and friendly convention that went by in a whirlwind, and still left me wanting more. As always there were people I looked forward to meeting who I barely got to speak to, if that, but that's the mark of a busy, jam-packed convention. And by the time I located my credit card with the intention of strolling around the dealer's room looking for goodies, they were already boxing up. Which is probably a good thing because my flight luggage was already heavy enough on the way out, and I've still got a few days to go.

I don't think I said anything about this on the old blog, but there's a new collection out. The NESFA press typically do a "Boskone book" for their guests of honour and this year it was my turn. I've been buying NESFA books for years and it's a blast to have one with my name on the cover - especially one as nice-looking as DEEP NAVIGATION. The contents, which run from my very first story to among my most recent ones, are as follows:

  1. Introduction by Stephen Baxter
  2. "Nunivak Snowflakes"
  3. "Monkey Suit"
  4. "The Fixation"
  5. "Feeling Rejected"
  6. "Fury"
  7. "Stroboscopic"
  8. "The Receivers"
  9. "Byrd Land Six"
  10. "The Star Surgeon's Apprentice"
  11. "On the Oodnadatta"
  12. "Fresco"
  13. "Viper"
  14. "Soirée"
  15. "The Sledge-Maker's Daughter"
  16. "Tiger, Burning"

The gorgeous cover image is by John Picacio, who is also a genuinely nice guy and someone I did get to spend a little time with at Boskone, although not nearly enough. There's also a very generous introduction from that excellent gentleman, Stephen Baxter.

Ordering details here; the page currently says that they are not yet taking orders but the book was freely available at Boskone so I suspect that may be a little out of date:


The book is available in signed, slipcase editions (autographed by John and I) as well as the normal hardcover.

And I think that will do for my first post.

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