Wednesday 28 October 2020

A Minor Mystery Resolved

 For nearly fifty years I've had the faint memory of a book encountered during the very start of my schooldays, but about which I could say almost nothing at all. The book had some creatures on the cover which were somewhat reminiscent of Moomins, but it was not a Moomin book. (When I first heard of the Moomin stories, I felt that my quest was ended, only to realise that it was not the case). All I could recall with any clarity was that there was something in the book about small creatures who were easily squashed, which is really not much to go on, and not necessarily the sort of thing one wants to be Googling.

It turns out that the book in question is this one:

It was published in Australia in 1967. Presumably a British edition was available at the same time, or at least by 1971 or 1972, when I most likely encountered it.

From the Wikipedia entry:

Gumbles are the most friendly and cheerful creatures in the bush and can be squashed into any shape without being hurt, although when flattened or "spanked" out completely they cannot regain their own shapes without help. They are hopeless when they get the giggles.

I would still be searching for this book were it not for a question on this week's edition of Only Connect, which mentioned the word Bottersnike and made enough of a connection to have me rushing to the computer. Such is serendipity.

I am delighted to have squared this circle and will be seeking a suitably old paperback copy of the book in question.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Saturday 24 October 2020



For the last couple of winters, or part thereof, we had roosting birds occupying this nest box. Last year a great tit was in all winter, then built a nest, although unfortunately all the hatchlings perished. Now a blue tit is in the box. Watch this space...

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Weasel Park West

 A couple of sketches based on observations of weasels in our garden.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Random observation

 Assuming no change in human longevity, someone alive in the 23rd century will have a clear memory of meeting someone who lived through Covid-19.

Thursday 8 October 2020

Remembering Abbie Sweetwine

 Today marks the anniversary of the 1952 Harrow and Wealdstone accident, Britain's worst peacetime railway incident, resulting in the loss of 112 lives.

A remarkable side-story of that day, but one which deserves wider exposure, was the involvement in the rescue effort of Abbie Sweetwine, an African-American nurse stationed at a nearby USAF station. Sweetwine's interventions undoubtedly saved many lives, but beyond that she left a lasting legacy in the use of triage practises to assess the severity of the wounded, and determine the best treatment options for those who had yet to be taken to hospital.

You can read a little more about Sweetwine here:

As far as I am aware there is no biography about Abbie Sweetwine - surely an omission that needs rectifying.

I've delivered a book

 I've submitted the manuscript for my next novel, the title of which is likely to be INHIBITOR PHASE. I've mentioned another title in the context of interviews, but this is the one that seems to be finding most favour with my publishers, and indeed is the one I initially offered as a placeholder name when the last contract was being drawn up. As may be apparent to those familiar with my work, the book takes place in the Revelation Space universe and is largely set in the years after ABSOLUTION GAP, my 2003 novel. 

It's not intended as a sequel to that book, but merely another entry in the mosaic of books and stories which illuminate a larger future history. That said, it does have connective tissue with some of the other novels. although I've scrupled as carefully as I can to make the book function as a standalone title, a single book which tells a complete tale in its own right and can be read as "just" an isolated story.

It's a much shorter novel than some of its predecessors - a mere 170,000 words, against 275,000 for ABSOLUTION GAP - but there is (I hope) a lot in it, including action set in five different solar systems, and an implied narrative taking in about eight hundred years of future history. Along the way we'll visit some locales that we've seen before, but at different timeframes, and we'll also explore some new corners of the RS universe.

What happens in the book? I'm not going to say - just yet. I can state that some of the influences that have fed into the book include a film by Ingmar Bergman, a song by Scott Walker (in fact more than one), and the closing track of a Muse album.

By by way of a teaser, here's a Wordcloud generated from the text, using

Click to embiggen.