Tuesday 14 July 2015

Frank Sidebottom and the Snows of Pluto

One of my most treasured posessions is this record from 1986, Frank Sidebottom's epoch-defining "sci-fi ep":

Other than containing some of the most inspired interpretations of popular sci-fi themes ever committed to vinyl - Frank's 2-second long "The Theme Tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is particularly noteworthy -  Frank was thoughtful enough to include some cutting edge "science fact". Here's the rear cover:

Among other choice factoids, Frank informs us that the Sun is "very big and very very hot", the moon is "not very interesting" and that the universe is believed to be made of "solid blamonge" beyond its edge. No arguing with any of that. However, Frank was really on the money when it came to Pluto:

Note Frank's prescient statement that it is "always snowing" on Pluto - a prediction that may turn out to be uncannily accurate in the light of recent data. What did Frank know that the rest of us didn't? Frank was also good enough to include a handy "check list" - "tick off the planets as man visits them (I have started it)" with Norwich crossed out. As Frank said: "Keep this sleeve by your radio and TV and as news comes through about mans' trips to other worlds - you'll have an instant record close at hand."

Cheers, Frank.


Saturday 4 July 2015

Books, books, books

Not a great deal to report here, hence the silence. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been a busy month or so since the last update.

Steve Baxter and I delivered our collaborative novel - the sequel to Arthur C Clarke's "A Meeting with Medusa" - at the start of June. At the moment we're to-ing and fro-ing between "The Medusa Chronicles" and "The Medusa Centuries" for the title, but that should be settled before too long. At various points Steve and I have used both titles, but we were always aware that we'd have to commit to one over the other at some point. We'll be working on the editorial revisions to the book over the coming month or so. At 130,000 words it's a decent sized novel, although not in the doorstopper class, and I wouldn't be surprised if the wordage drops a little as we go through the revisions. Since the Clarke story that provided  the inspiration for our novel is itself not terribly long (I'm guessing it's a long novelette or a short novella, although I haven't done an exact word count) we both felt that we wanted to retain that spirit of concision and not end up writing an unwieldy blockbuster. That said, Clarke's story gave us so many avenues to explore that at times it was hard to rein ourselves in. And it's very much a sequel to the story, not - as I've seen mentioned here and there - an expansion. No; Clarke did it first and best, and Steve and I were agreed that we didn't want to touch a word of the original. What we've done, instead, is spin off from the last line of that story, imagining what happened to Howard Falcon after he came back from Jupiter.

In the meantime, I'm working on my next novel, which will also appear in 2016. The collaboration is very much a bonus, which Steve and I both knew would have to be worked in around our existing contractual obligations, and it's had no bearing on the other books we're both working on. From my point of view, it's probably meant a little less short fiction being written in 2015, as well as a lot less travel, but since I had a good run last year, I don't think that's too bad a trade-off. As for the as-yet-unfinished book, I don't want to say too much about it at the moment, because there's still - as they say - a mountain to climb - and a lot could change between now and delivery. It's a standalone, though, and not related to anything else I've written, and will (I hope) turn out to be something fast-paced, colourful and not least of all fun.

If that wasn't enough, I'm also turning my thoughts - very gently - to the book after this one, and that one will be a return to one of my prior universes. Which one, it's too soon to say.  I'll probably have a better idea nearer the end of the year. Of course, these decisions don't take place in a vacuum.  Editors, agents, marketing departments, etc, also have to think that it's a commercially sound idea, and although we've begun negotiations, so to speak, there's still a way to go before I have a definite book and title in mind.