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Preview: The Skinner


A science fiction writer's blog.

Updated: 2018-03-15T12:39:28.247+00:00


The Soldier Covers


Here are the full covers of The Soldier in hardback and trade paperback. Nice quotes here from some big beasts in the SF world. Unexpected.


Exercise Sweet Spot


Damn, how much exercise is too much? I never seem to be able to hit the sweet spot.

In the last months I was going to the gym 3 times a week for an hour plus each time (over a number of weeks I'd taken it up from three-quarters of an hour). This exercise consisted of 20 mins warm-up on a rowing machine or cross trainer, followed by a varied selection of weight lifting. I seemed to be rolling along fine with that. I then changed it to half an hour in the morning on weekdays, except for one day when I went in the afternoon and did about an hour. This was because I was dopy in the morning and it seemed to take forever to get going. I thought this might give me a boost and it did. For a week I was fine and much more awake. I steadily upped the time to (thus far) 37 minutes and then just as steadily, along came increasing midday knackerdom and the need for a ‘power knap’ (which always sounds better than a snooze on the sofa).

One of the things that came across in various articles I read was that if your basing your life around your exercise then you’re getting a bit OCD with it. Well I guess I am in the sense that my work is suffering because I’m wearing myself out. Another thing I read was that, per week, 150 mins of moderate exercise or 75 mins of intense is a kind of minimum, while 3 to 5 times that is best. I was doing the 3x – about 3.5 hours intense, but dropping 3 hours when I moved to the mornings and steadily climbing again. But it didn’t seem to work out so well.

I guess one has to look at other factors. I’m no spring chicken anymore; I’m 57 (Fuck! How did that happen?). It could simply be that I need to slow down a bit and get more rest, which is an idea I do not like at all. Also, though there’s no blood involved, men go through hormonal cycles. Perhaps I just hit a testosterone dip or something? Then there’s the time of year and the weather. It’s Winter and like us all I definitely slow down at this time of year. Also, right now, it’s Siberia outside. It’s not beyond reason to suppose evolution has provided us with a genetically transcribed instruction: ‘Snow, cold, slow down shutdown and conserve.’

Anyway, in the end I can read all sorts of articles on the internet about this sort of stuff, but always they fail to apply to me. A lot of strength training bumph is focused on the age groups ten or twenty years behind me, where you can basically get away with hammering your body. Look at ‘senior’ stuff and it’s always ‘you need to maintain your health with a little gentle exercise’ and ‘take advice from your health practitioner’ and, essentially ‘don’t go taking my advice and blowing the rivets out of your heart’.

I guess I’ll just have to keep altering things, trying new things, and hoping to find the exercise sweet spot for me.       


Night Shade Books Announces . . .


New book announcement: Polity-universe classics from Neal Asher!by ADMIN on FEBRUARY 20, 2018 in NEWSExciting news, sci-fi fans! After a long time trying to make it happen, we’ve just acquired the rights to several Neal Asher backlist titles: Gridlinked, Brass Man, and The Skinner.Now, that’s pretty great for lots of reasons—after all, Asher’s books are always incredible—but there’s one thing in particular we want to point out: with these acquisitions, we are now in the very unique position of being the first US publisher ever to hold the publishing rights to every title in both the Agent Cormac and Spatterjay series, which were in many ways responsible for launching Asher into his current state as a successful, high-profile author of science fiction.If you’re an Asher fan already, as you all should of course be, you’ll know that his publishing history here in the states has been frustratingly spotty, with different books within the same series coming out from different publishers, which has made it hard to keep up with them. But, that said, now that these books will finally all be available in the US from the same publisher (us!) for the first time, we’ll have an opportunity to try and do things the right way, and we plan to take full advantage of it.That starts with our new mass-market paperback editions, which will come with brand-new, and seriously cool, covers (with art by Neil Lang). Tor UK put these together for their own upcoming reissues of Asher’s books, and we just liked them so much, we knew we had to do the same. Check them out—as well as the accelerated-release schedule we’ve put them on (because who likes waiting?)—below:     (TENTATIVE) RELEASE SCHEDULE:September 2018: GridlinkedOctober 2018: The Line of PolityNovember 2018: Brass ManJanuary 2019: Polity AgentFebruary 2019: Line WarMarch 2019: The SkinnerApril 2019: Voyage of the Sable KeechMay 2019: Orbus____________________We also want to remind you all that this isn’t our only project in the works with Neal—his newest book, The Soldier, is out in hardcover this May! Check it out here for all the info.Follow us on Twitter @NightShadeNews for more updates, and keep checking back here for more posts, announcements, and cover reveals—we’re always putting up new content![...]

Altered Carbon ReSleeved


So, I sat and watched Altered Carbon on Netflix. A few episodes in I lost track of what the hell was going on. This was due to actors mumbling, changes in language introduced for no purpose and, frankly, a viewer with tinnitus. Turning on the subtitles solved the problem. It’s been sixteen years since I read Richard Morgan’s excellent book so in essence I was coming to this like a newby. I remembered that there was a particularly violent and cool character called Takeshi Kovacs, that people had cortical stacks and that they could be resleeved, and that they could also be tortured in virtual reality . . . and that is about it. This series gave me precisely those things and I enjoyed it very much. My criticism would be that it did not have the breathless excitement of the book because I remember putting that aside feeling like I’d been put through a rolling mill. In fact in this, towards the end, I started to feel that the action was too stylized and dragging. However, it is smart enjoyable science fiction and streets ahead of most of what is out there. I wouldn’t put it on a par with The Expanse but I would put it far above the Trek dreck and all that Marvel superhero nonsense.    I then noted that quite a lot of people were criticizing this because it’s ‘not like the book’ and ‘unnecessary changes have been made’, so I skim read a bit of the book. These critics are right. I note that religion has been dropped in there in an ‘understanding’ way, while in the book (just from the bit I read) it got a similar treatment to what I gave it in my The Line of Polity. I believe it got the ‘oh you idiots’ atheist treatment. Roles and story lines were swapped and consolidated like Quellcrist Falconer, like Kovac’s past and no doubt others things I would only be aware of if I read the book again. And I don’t have much of a problem with these.I understand how you need to take a lighter more understanding view of religion if you are not to alienate a large portion of your audience (I reckon this was why Tor US, while publishing my books, made size excuses about The Line of Polity and didn’t publish it). Many of the other changes were maybe unnecessary but they were the vision of those who were translating it to the screen. So what? We got some damned good SF, taken seriously, on our screens and, FFS, the book has not gone away! It also means that other works are more likely to appear! Some changes I would say were necessary and they were improvements. Science fiction has moved on in sixteen years and, for example, I much prefer the version here of Bancroft’s house to the one described in the first chapter of the book.Other criticisms have been that it was a pastiche. Well, I would argue that all science fiction is that – it is built upon what went before. Yeah, I saw the spinning ceiling fans, the noodle bars on the streets and the overall street scenes and thought, ‘Blade Runner’. I also note that Kovacs floating in the tank and the ‘fallen angel’ woman were very much like the signal image from The Expanse. But it all worked. It is up to you whether you denigrate these as pastiche or smile at the hat-tips.  In all I enjoyed this. It wasn’t entirely the book we read but, well, even the books we read aren’t that when we return to them. Hence the title above: this was Altered Carbon ReSleeved.    Congratulations Richard Morgan![...]

Falcon Heavy


Watching Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy launch into space, seeing two of its boosters land with the kind of precision that looked like CGI and seeing, FFS, a Tesla car swinging round Earth with a manikin in the driver’s seat, had me the most excited about space travel and exploration I’ve been for an age. Why is this important? The rockets are reusable, the cost is coming down at an astounding rate but, most importantly, Musk is showing that space exploration and travel can be carried out by private sector enterprise. In fact it can be carried out better. We no longer have to wait for moribund, government-controlled bureaucratic behemoths like NASA to get us into space. launch also had another effect on me illustrated by a tweet I saw last night. I paraphrase: ‘There’s a Tesla car heading to Mars and you’re still on about Trump?’ In one evening I completely lost interest in politics and still feel that way this morning (but it will inevitably return).There was one negative in this and that was the third booster failure. One of its engines failed to ignite (some fuel problem?) and it missed the drone ship to plummet into the sea at hundreds of miles an hour. But even this is a relatively minor mishap in something of this scale. Firstly, other rockets aren’t even reusable and, consequently, are a damned sight more expensive (“The nearest peer competitor is the Delta 4 Heavy at roughly half the thrust and from four to as much as ten times the cost.”). Secondly, it turns out that these rockets won’t be used again anyway since Spacex has the next iteration ready (I think).There have been naysayers. Some feel that Musk should have sent some scientific instrument rather than a car, and that this was a crass publicity stunt. They have obviously failed to understand the financial aspect of the publicity generated by this stunt. Doubtless their inclination is for science under the aegis of big government, and they find private enterprise distasteful. Another, apparently on TV this morning (I didn’t see this since I don’t have a TV licence and therefore don’t watch live TV) was bemoaning the ‘pollution’ of space and of Mars by sending a car up. Beside the fact that the car will not actually end up on Mars, this is quite ridiculous politically correct ‘environmentally conscious’ virtue signaling. It also shows a complete failure to understand the barren hostile immensity beyond Earth. Seriously, fuck off.Elon Musk is a man with a dream and he is not buggering about in achieving it. He wants us up in space, constantly, on Mars, on the moon and elsewhere. I love too that he is obviously also a lover of science fiction. Culture ship names and that ‘Don’t Panic’ on the dash screen of the Tesla demonstrate this. And his dream, in the end, has revitalized the dream of space exploration for us all. [...]

Who Reads my Books: Joanne Simpson


My name is Joanne. I live in Western Australia. Well, large parts of my life are there. Lately, I make it home about one week in three. I travel a lot so I read a lot.I have been a die-hard SF&F fan since I learnt the word “genre”.  My tastes were established early - the staff at the local library gave up when I was about nine and gave me early access to the adult shelves. So as a child and teenager I immersed myself in the greats of the 1950s - 70s  - Brunner, Delaney, Spinrad, Ellison, Dick, Anderson, Niven, Blish, Zelazny, Silverberg, Norton, LeGuin, Lee, Butler et al. Of course I never stopped reading, but they were formative.I impressively failed 1st year science (an application problem, not an interest problem). After a hiatus working as a lab tech I read English and Philosophy. My Honours dissertation was on the treatment of death and need in “Naked Lunch” (by the genre-breaking and under-appreciated William S. Burroughs). This was a topic my wonderful, brilliant modernist painter and much missed supervisor Tom Gibbons described as “brave”. But it went fine.  Needless to say work was hard to find on graduation. I spent four years as a 2ndhand bookdealer and scrimped my way through a masters in business before finally landing a job that paid the average wage.I worked for a big mining company more or less from graduation until laid off a bit over two years ago. Now I am a freelance project management consultant. I help companies navigate their way through building frighteningly large things for terrifying amounts of money. Such fun.I’m a tragic road warrior. I take lots of pictures on the road, many of which make it to Instagram Because I spend so much time in anonymous serviced apartments, I have become a connoisseur of disappointing public art But for a quite competent photographer of things not me, I’m rubbish at selfies. Hence a typical self-portrait - tired, bored and cranky in Canberra airport after a long week, waiting to go home.My main hobbies apart from photography are ineptly playing annoying stringed instruments (ukulele and banjo), and strategic crochet. And, of course, reading. Though I can’t really describe a thing as essential as breathing as a hobby. I must read at least an hour a day (double on weekends).I love your books (especially the Spatterjay series) because they seem to fit into my happy place of complex characterisation, tech-savvy humour, darkness and weirdness. I have though immensely enjoyed the Weaver’s development from loveably incomprehensible buffoon to ancient, wise and utterly arbitrary  super-being. And equally how adeptly you have made the Prador well, not likeable, but at least comprehensible and credible as an alien species. I recently enjoyed the slightly surreal experience of being part-way through the latest book (Infinity Engine) while having an active conversation with you on Facebook about an almost entirely unrelated topic. Worlds colliding…We definitely hold divergent views on many things (especially climate change). But I am not a reader who needs to accept a writer’s worldview to also appreciate their writing (thank my Eng Lit training for that). I enjoy your books for themselves, and your posts as both an insight into your writing and an opportunity to gently poke fun ;-). Wouldn’t life be dull if everybody agreed about everything... And I love the weird science and insect posts! It’s fun to see where you find your ideas.Very much looking forward to the Rise of the Jain. But I have to close with one annoying nerd question. On the very first page of Infinity Engine, you reference Buzzard magnetic fields. Did you mean Bussard, and did your editor waylay you? [Feel free to delete this last paragraph if unbearably annoying…] Joanne[...]

Laser-Driven Fusion


I haven't been putting much science up on here but felt the need to do so with this. If true, it's damned important.

"Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and, therefore, no radioactivity in its primary reaction. And unlike most other sources of power production - like coal, gas and nuclear, which rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines - the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity. But the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities - almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun."


Bella Pagan Introduces New Covers!


Editorial Director Bella Pagan introduces a new look for Neal Asher's books, the first of which are coming in 2018. Science fiction is full of time travel paradoxes. And I don’t just mean the oops-you-travelled-back-in-time-and-now-you’ve-accidentally-become-your-own-grandmother kind. Or the you-glimpsed-the-future-and-then-you-changed-how-it-unfolded-so-how-could-you-possibly-have-seen-it-in-the-first-place kind. I mean the kind where you design a fictional future, and then one day, as you travel inexorably through time second-by-second, the future arrives. And it doesn’t look anything like how you designed it.The most obvious examples are the stories with dates in the title – think 1984, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. But there are many more. The year 2015 did not give us the flying cars envisioned in 1989’s Back to the Future. The early 90s did not, thankfully, see the onset of the Eugenics Wars, as envisioned by Star Trek (though I’m still holding out for first contact with the Vulcans on 5th April 2063). And sometimes the opposite happens: the technological wonder that is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sounds positively antique in the age of the smartphone: ‘a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press-buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice.’ Hundreds of buttons?! No touch screen?! How can something so visionary go out of date so quickly?Which brings us back to the paradox of designing the future. It’s a challenge faced not just by writers and filmmakers, but by our own book cover designers. Every literary genre is affected by changing fashions, of course – but few things evolve as fast as SFF covers. Which is why we like to polish them up every few years! Last year we redesigned Douglas Adams’ Trilogy of Five, the year before we jazzed up the ebook covers for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 10-book Shadows of the Apt series. And now: it’s Neal Asher’s turn.Over the next couple of years, science fiction giant Neal Asher’s complete backlist will be republished with fantastic new jackets, to reflect the way the future is depicted now – as opposed to how it was depicted when they were first published in the early 2000s, or how it was depicted when they were last re-jacketed eight years ago.LINK TO FULL ARTICLE HERE[...]

Who Reads my Books: Sean Price


I was enjoying reading the bios posted here and was not intending to write one myself, but it seemed the vast majority were from the UK and I didn’t want Neal to think he didn’t have readers from across the pond also.So, I was born in New York (State, not the city, as the two are separate entities), but we moved a lot when I was young, due to my father being in the military. I was a classic introvert and because I was always the new kid, books became my escapism. I remember being 9 years old, walking home from school (latchkey kid) and I stopped at the library. I walked out with “Red Planet”, by Robert Heinlein. That was the start. I haven’t stopped yet. I’ve still got a fond spot for Heinlein’s YA series. I got turned off from his writing later in life but his books were a huge influence on me when I was young. I read a vast amount and when I was younger (and broke), I pretty much read out my local libraries. It was good in a way as I was exposed to a lot of different literature that I would not have read had I could buy books. I read Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” when I was ten. I didn’t understand half of it at the time, but I sure enjoyed it. I read from Asimov to Zelazny and everyone in between. The good thing about moving around was there was always more to read at the next library.We eventually ended in New Jersey when I was a pre-teen and stayed there through the rest of my formative years. I graduated High School at the age of 18 and did the blue-collar thing for a while, working as a carpenter. It only took a short while of working outside before I decided snow was a bad invention and endeavored to move as far west as I possibly could and still stay within the U.S. I spent the next quarter century living in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Hawaii is a great place to be if you like outdoorsy stuff. Hiking, running, swimming, surfing, diving, anything and all can be done any time of the year. It’s also a good place to be in the construction trade as the weather never changes, but I got tired of the physicality of the work so during one of the downturns in the economy, I transitioned from carpentry to computer science — which sounds slightly weird I suppose, but there you go — and have been working as a software engineer ever since. The first book I read of Neal’s was “The Skinner” and it was one of the last books I bought in physical format. After years of buying books, putting them on shelves and then eventually donating them to libraries (must give back somehow) I own nothing but eBooks. I occasionally miss holding a physical book but the convenience of having an entire library in my hand is hard to beat. Amusingly, “The Skinner” was also the first — and last — book I listened to in audio format. I run a lot and like to do endurance events and I usually just load up the iPod with some playlists to pass the time when the going gets tough. Several years ago, I was running an ultramarathon and I thought it would be a good time to try an audio book. So, fast forward to 20 hours into the race, 3AM in a dark Hawaiian rainforest, sleep deprived and not cognitively at my sharpest, with my headlamp casting eerie shadows, listening to a description of the Skinner coming out of the woods — and a wild boar runs across the trail in front of me — tusks and all. Thus ended my brief foray into audio books. I now confine my reading to the comfort and safety of my home. About two years ago, for reasons that I still have a hard time explaining to myself, let alone anyone else, my wife and I moved from Hawaii to the Southeastern US, a place where churches are seemingly only outnumbered by Waffle Houses and I sometimes feel I’m the only person in the entire state who did not vote for our current president. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the South. Some turned out [...]

New Publisher for Gridlinked, Brass Man and The Skinner


Good news for US readers:
"I'm pleased to confirm that Skyhorse and Start Media would love to publish Gridlinked, The Skinner, and Brass Man - Skyhorse to release in paperback and audio, and Start in Ebook. Skyhorse will aim to release in paperback next summer but the good news is that Start can make the ebooks available pretty much as soon as we've taken care of the paperwork. That shouldn't take long so hopefully the ebooks will be available in the new year."
Release dates to be confirmed.


Body and Mind Update


Here’s a bit of an update on ‘body and mind’. I’m running through this to set the scene because shortly I really must talk about nootropics.

When I started at the gym in the Summer of last year I was still walking silly distances most days, and I had just come back from Crete where I had been swimming and kayaking a lot, so I thought I was pretty fit. My two-hour induction soon disabused me of this notion … well, I was fit, but not in the right places. What ensued then brought me down to Earth with a bump. I thought I could go for a huge walk in the morning and follow that with a session at the gym in the evening, and I did do this for a while. There was a problem, however: I ended up having to take long snoozes during the day because I was absolutely knackered. This was all very well but, y’know, I really needed to do some writing.

I switched to alternate days of walking and gym. This went on for a few weeks but even then I was finding myself getting knackered and effectively losing productive days of work. Next I dropped the walking altogether but, because I never do things by half measures, my time, weights and reps at the gym steadily increased. Since then I’ve been in and out of attempting to combine gym and walking and work and trying not to snooze away my life. Power napping works – if you remember to set the alarm.

I have enjoyed what all those gym sessions have done for me – I now weight over 13 stone but have much less fat than when I was lighter – but I need to find an exercise/work balance. Currently I’m doing three gym sessions a week of an hour and a quarter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but only after I’ve written my 2,000 words, then some nice long walks at the weekend. I seem to be getting there with this, in fact, my energy levels seem to be increasing. But now I wonder if what has been going on with me physically is rooted more in what has been going on mentally than I would suppose.

Three and a half years ago after what I will dub ‘the shitty life event’ I chose the option of exercise. The other options, apparently, are crawling inside a bottle, pills or excessive work. I think I chose the right one because at the time I simply wasn’t capable or interested in the work. I walked thousands of miles, kayaked and swam – all to stay on top of depression. This was then followed by the bonus of panic attacks and anxiety. I think that during the latter time I was basically driven by the adrenalin and cortisol of the buggered ‘fight or flight’ response. As I then started to come out of that last year I started to pay the cost. I was so knackered all the time because I was still recovering from the effects of having my body overclocked (as a computer) for so long. Is ‘burn out’ the correct term? Probably.

But now? I’m enjoying life again. I’m reading and writing. And now the exercise seems to be getting easier. Still, occasionally, the snooze monster creeps up behind me with a brick in a sock, but hell, I’m 56 and mustn’t expect miracles! But there’s something else I must factor in too, and that’s those mentioned nootropics…


Who Reads my Books: Eric Jones


People ask me where I grew up, and I tell them Mayberry. It’s not far from truth.I was born in 1972 on the Gulf coast of Mississippi, in a town with very few red lights and a population of less than 6000. People familiar with the area now know it as a hotbed for casino gambling; when I grew up it was a depressed area whose main industries were building ships for the military or fishing the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.We had a TV - which got ABC, CBS, and PBS. One channel had ghost people that lived in the static. Most of my time growing up during the day (except Saturday mornings) was spent outside in the woods playing army or cowboys and injuns, riding bikes, or rowing skiffs in the bayou to look at gators or find places to build forts.At night, we watched the news and then one TV show. It was usually my dad or my mom’s choice, but once we watched an episode of this show called Battlestar Galactica. I loved it, and talked my parents into letting me watch it when it came on. A few months later, on a Sunday, my parents told me that they wanted me to watch a show on PBS with them. I really didn’t like PBS because all my dad ever watched on it was the MacNeil/Lehrer report and it was boring, but they said it was like Battlestar Galactica and I would like it. It was a show called Cosmos, hosted by a man named Carl Sagan. I didn’t know that astronomy was so amazing, and I wanted to know everything about it.A few years later, in a 5th grade literature class, I was exposed to written science fiction. Everyone in class got a massive book filled with all sorts of novellas and short stories and each week we had to read an assigned story and answer discussion questions on its meaning. It was a Ray Bradbury story that did it - “All Summer in a Day” – and I was done for. I actually read every science fiction story in that book that weekend, of which there were just not enough.My mom saw this and was thrilled. She spent her Fridays scanning the classified ads looking for yard sales to pillage during the weekend as a hobby, and one Saturday after coming home with her loot she tossed a book at me and said, “I picked this up at a garage sale for you, it’s sci fi – you like that, don’t you?” That book was called “Ringworld,” by Larry Niven. Yeah, I was really done for.I got a library card, and was aimed at the adventure and science fiction section of the library by the librarian. Over the years I gradually worked my way from left to right, top to bottom. I explored the bottoms of the oceans and survived the bends with Tom Swift, and I battled against the Vom with Philip Lynx and his minidrag Pip. I was proud Mobile Infantry with Rico, barely avoided being mind-controlled by a Thrint, and lived in fear of having my almost-overloaded Langston Field collapse while in combat.I was Dorsai!As an adult I still read science fiction voraciously. I think that’s one of the reasons why Neal’s books appeal to me the way that they do. When I read his books, especially his polity ones, I’m able to rekindle a sense of wonder that’s akin to how I felt when I was a kid because of how many entertaining and new ideas live inside of them. Except now, instead of living on the Ringworld with Louis Wu and trying to desperately not get killed by the luck of Teela Brown, I’m trying to sneak a gecko mine onto the back of a Prador in the middle of running like hell from Jain-inspired megadeath.My love for science fiction and astronomy bloomed into a love for physics. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and I chased the doctorate dragon in large scale cosmological structure and solar physics.  These days, I live in Florida with my wife and my newborn daughter, and I teach physics and astronomy classes at a sta[...]

Writing Update


Ah that’s better. From my previous malaise of mind I have been steadily getting back on track. Most of this has occurred over the last year marked by the return to me of my pleasure in reading. But, y’know, I have a job, and that’s writing books. My standard, before Caroline died, was to write 2,000 words a day for 5 days a week. It was keeping to this that enabled me to get the whole transformation trilogy written to first draft before I had to deliver even the first book. Over the three years after that it was those books that kept me on track with a book every year. It was almost as if I had prepared for it.

In this last year I’ve been getting back to those kind of word counts but never quite there. I don’t think I’ve had one week where I have managed to do the full 10,000. A lot of this was due to me sorting out the mess that was The Soldier – the first book of Rise of the Jain. This was something I’d taken tilts at over a number of years and was very patchy and a bit all over the place. After that I managed to quickly write the next book to first draft but still no full weeks of 10,000 words. Now, nearly 50,000 words into the third book, I’ve just done such a week. I’m pretty happy about that.

I was chatting recently with someone about this tendency of mine to want to have books in the bank, so to speak. I am happy to be writing at the above rate but I would love to have a whole trilogy or some such done before the ink is dry on a contract. However I realize, that upon reaching that stage, it won’t be enough. I’ll want more books in the bank. Then there’s the other stuff I want to do. I would like to stick some more short story collections on Kindle. I would like to write some more short stories and send them to magazines like Asimov’s. I’d like to (maybe) go through the fantasy trilogy I have on file and then put that out on Kindle. Then there’s a book whose title I already have: Walking to Voyla. I’d like to do that.


Uploading to AI crystal and generating a few subminds cannot come quickly enough for me.


Blade Runner 2049


Here's what I wrote the day after seeing this film:"Okay, I watched Blade Runner 2049 last night. Well, you know when you go to a nightclub, and it's a bit crap, so they crank the volume up to try and make it exciting. That. The original Blade Runner was understated - the sounds meant something - here they were akin to the bangs and crashes in a cheap horror movie to make you jump out of your seat. Scenes dragged on for too long to try and impart atmosphere and meaning that wasn't there. I didn't care about anyone. Loose threads dangled. It was boring and it dragged. About an hour and a half in I felt I'd fallen into an episode of the Twilight Zone where I would be forced to watch a naff movie forever."It is interesting to read reviews from others who feel that this is the best thing they have ever seen, or it is a great effort, or it is a suitable sequel. This is a salutary reminder that people's experience of art is mostly subjective. I then begin to wonder if my experience would have been different if the sound hadn't been so high that the crash bangs and music hurt my ears, but no, then I wouldn't have been able to hear what they were saying. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind? No - good films always grab me and in fact I use them to escape any bad state of mind. Perhaps I just didn't 'get' it? No. The last time I didn't 'get' an sfnal entertainment was when I was learning to walk.In retrospect: The sound needed to be lower and unnecessary loud shit needed to go. Scenes needed to be much shorter because, hey, I get it now so move on. The attempts at arty mystery, seemingly tossed in at random, were a distraction. I mean, what were those bees about and who cares? What was the point of the 'unresolved' bad guy with the blank eyes? The next film? Why did I care nothing for any of the characters except, just a little bit, for Deckard? No, my opinion still hasn't changed.[...]

Who Reads my Books: Andrew ten Broek


At a young tender age, living in the south of the Netherlands in Tilburg, my dad installed my love for stories. Even if he himself was more of a music kind of person. I vividly remember mostly watching Jim Henson productions with him, like The Storyteller and the film The Dark Crystal. Even though the Skeksis scared me as a child, I was fascinated by the tale. Reading stories however, I pretty much stopped doing for years because in high school here they tend to force students to read a brand of stories that didn´t gel well with me. Because of this I for years considered myself to be more of a visual kind of person, in that I'd rather watch TV shows and films than read novels.Things changed when I decided to start listening to some novels in audio format and from then on I was able to pick up novels and actually read them. I became a very avid reader and mostly enjoy the science fiction genre, with a particular love for space opera. I started out with the more easily accessible novels such as Ender´s Game by Orson Scott Card and Ringworld by Larry Niven, then later on started to take in the very thorough world-building and storytelling of Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds. I started reading Neal Asher with Prador Moon and enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue with the Agent Cormac prequel Shadow of the Scorpion. After that I started the original series with Gridlinked and Neal Asher became one of my favourite writers. The main reasons being that I enjoy the relationship that is there in the novels between man and technology, the xenobiology that is part of the world-building and the artificial intelligences that are present within basically all universes that Neal has created.In my daily life I also run into the interaction between man and technology, although it is more on the financial side because of the pragmatism I was taught at home when choosing my profession. I graduated from Fontys University in Eindhoven in 2006 in Business Informatics. I´m currently an application engineer for bookkeeping and logistics software, working for a construction company that is part of VolkerWessels. Although they mostly build locally in the Netherlands, they have some projects in the UK and Canada as well. The work varies from implementing invoice recognition systems called OCR, to asphalt tracking systems and regular financial management reporting tools.I´ve an Indonesian mother and, because of that, I love traveling a lot as well and have been in my mother´s birth country a couple of times. This picture was taken when I was a bit younger and riding a foal in Malang, a village near the mountain Bromo on Java. Because of the conservative upbringing I´ve had, I´ve also been to odd places such as Jerusalem, the city of the three monotheistic religions. My interest in mostly British writers and Doctor Who has also lead me to visit different places in the UK from London to Cardiff, and from Nottingham to most recently Edinburgh. I was able to get some hard covers signed in person by Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynold, Stephen Baxter and Ken MacLeod so far. Hopefully I get that chance to do so for some of Neal´s novels some time.Which brings me to the specific hobby I have in collecting hard covers, which I´m often on the hunt for. I collect both of classic science fiction writers as well as modern ones. My favourite classic writer is Robert Heinlein, who doesn´t seem to have lost its poignancy to me. And as mentioned before Neal Asher is among my most favorite ones of the modern writers. Whether he writes from the viewpoint of a human, crab-like species such as the Pradors, an ambigious entity such as Dragon or androids such[...]


It’s not been a highly productive few weeks for me. Lots of life stuff getting in the way of writing including a cold that has just been clinging on, followed by a nice finger infection and constant tiredness. I am determined to do better tomorrow!

One nasty thing that came along out of the blue, and used up a lot of my time, was a couple of emails from an organization called informing me that I was in breach of copyright for three images I used on my blog some time ago. Two of these were Press Association Images and one was from Science Photo Library. My immediate response, seeing as this was a demand for money was, ‘Is this a scam?’ I took advice on it and meanwhile received the same from this organization through the post. I emailed the two image libraries concerned and received confirmation that PicRights represented them.

The time drain for me was then to go onto my blogs and delete every image that might be dodgy. Mea culpa here because I did use those images in a blog without crediting their source, though, I have to add that I almost certainly did not get them from the libraries concerned. Probably I got them from Facebook or Twitter. Also, me complaining about this would be a case of cognitive dissonance since I am the first to complain about the torrent sites where people steal my books. One particular post high-lighted this for me. This was from a photographer detailing his expenses and time in obtaining certain images. But I was also annoyed by the fact that I was being hit for long ago blog posts whose visits weren’t above twenty or so, and that this was likely a money spinner along the lines of those used by ambulance-chasing lawyers. I was in a situation where I could have gone to court but it could have cost me thousands, so I paid up.

Those three images cost me £383 for past usage, a deal of stress and many hours of time that would have been better spent writing. I guess this is a salutary lesson to us all. 


The Soldier - UK Cover


Here's the cover for the UK version of The Soldier - first books of Rise of the Jain. There's more about this here over on Macmillan Tor.


Macmillan Doing Stuff


So anyway, here's a thing: Macmillan are doing all sorts of good stuff. First there are my books appearing on Audible UK. Second, the one you don't know about till right now, is they're doing new covers for my backlist for another push on them. I've seen these covers and they are pretty damned cool. First up will be the Cormac books...

And here, for your listening pleasure, are soundcloud links to those books that are now up on Audible UK:

Thanks Macmillan!

Who Reads my Books: David Chapman


Hi,I started the whole Sci-Fi/Fantasy thing as a spotty nerdy teenager. Managed to lose the spots and teens, still a nerd! Cut my teeth as many of us do on Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Flirted slightly with the extremely misogynist John Norman and his planet Gor (I was a teenager!) and the “esteemed” Ron Hubbard. I later diversified to Sci Fantasy and remember devouring the Belgarion series by Mr and Mrs Eddings. I had an open order for every book as it came out. I still have quite a collection of hard copy books but nowadays most books are “Kindled” on the Ipad.I got into Richard Morgan’s early books a few years ago and while waiting for the next in the series looked around for similar genre, found the Polity, and was converted! I love the whole Polity universe as it is painted on such a large canvas, there’s blood, gore and hydraulic fluid aplenty but generally Neal’s tone is one of optimism (As long as you don’t let the humans control anything critical). I also find listening to the audio versions an excellent way of covering large distances in the car without being bored to insensibility. Neal, thanks for the mental pictures, whether it’s C or Si based, you flesh (HiCr) out a character superbly. While waiting on the next polity instalment, I’m revisiting Gemmell and Pratchett, both sorely missed.As for myself, I trained as a foundry engineer at college, left knowing everything and that I was the pinnacle of evolution. One week on the shop floor in a heavy steel foundry soon sorted that out! I started as a technician and worked myself up through production and then into sales. Covered steel, iron, aluminium and nonferrous alloys, die casting, moulding, investment casting and MIM before moving into the black art of metal powder manufacturing.Anybody who has been associated with foundries will know our aversion to extremely hot metals combined with water. So when it was first explained to me during the factory tour that they atomise a 1650 C metal stream with high pressure cold water, my first instinct was to run!Fortunately I stayed and moved into the position of Sales Director and got to learn so much about pressing metals, filtered metals and my favourite the spraying of metal powders. Who cannot be impressed watching a -53µm superalloy powder being sprayed through a miniature jet engine at multiple Mach!I worked within the engineering group for over 10 years before it was sold to an “Entrepreneur” who wanted to take us all back to “grass roots” Translation, stop trying to stay on the leading edge and make lots of simple things that can be copied and made cheaper in other countries. Ah, the foresight!I left and the group was bust in 12 monthsAs many do when we can’t fall back to a real job immediately, I became a consultant! One contract involved doing due diligence on an obscure metal powder company in the middle of Slovakia. I had an option of this or a similar company in Oslo. I had spent most of my commercial life working in Asia and West Coast USA. I hate the cold! Due to an incredible lack of geographical knowledge, I presumed the town in Slovakia with the same latitude as Paris would be a better option in December than Norway. Brilliant deduction, I arrived in Zilina  "International" (2 flights a week only to Prague!) Airport on the 19th  December 2005 to find out that the temperature of -27C did exist outside the polar regions, f***king Oslo was +6C!!At this time, Slovakia was still very “Socialistic” - grey concrete buildings, no colours aside from the candle lit cemeteries, and of[...]

The Soldier - US Cover


I've just received this image of The Soldier, first book of Rise of the Jain from Night Shade Books. Very nice indeed.


Book Sale: Transformation Trilogy


I'm clearing out some books in my loft so therefore selling some signed copies. Since there's a right mixture up there I cannot be arsed to sort them all out and list them so will be putting batches up for sale like these. Okay, I have UK mass-market paperback editions of the Transformation trilogy to go. Those are Dark Intelligence, War Factory and Infinity Engine. The cost is cover price plus postage - the books are £9 each while p&p in the UK is £4 and to the US is £11 (for example). These can be just signed or signed to you. I can be tracked down on Facebook and Twitter or you can leave a message here.


Who Reads my Books: Paul LaFontaine


I’m Paul LaFontaine, currently living in Breckenridge, Colorado. Love the mountains, skiing, hiking and the outdoors.I grew up on classic science fiction that had been written 20 years earlier - Heinlein, A.C. Clark, Asimov. Even went really old school E.E. Doc Smith and the Lensman series. Ursula K. LeGuin’s the Lathe of Heaven. The Forever War. Consumed books on nuclear war, mutants, plagues. Always military themes. Fleets, dropship troopers, Mega-tanks, mushroom clouds.In 1980 I read a novelette in Omni magazine by a then little known writer named George R.R. Martin called Sandkings. My love of bio-based science fiction, kindled by the Bugs in Starship Troopers, was stoked into a roaring inferno by Martin’s Sandkings that would inevitably lead me to a bunch of crabby characters on a certain moon in the future.My first human science fiction hero was Bel Riose, the hapless General in the failing Empire of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. Unstoppable when in command of his legendary 20th Fleet, the politicians ended his career. Aware of the thematic similarities only dimly as a teenager, I applied to and attended the United States Military Academy to become an officer in the Army of another empire in its twilight.After deploying and participating in the First Gulf War and seeing how grimy and random war can be, I got out and tried business. Not particularly lucky or skilled, I was swept up into a bit of momentum when the internet happened. I got my first taste of the new capabilities that made Artificial Intelligence conceivable. I saw things at scale. Fast forward past a bunch of boring business stuff and I find myself sent to the UK to help build out the internet arm of the benevolent and beloved Ticketmaster. And it all began to come together - love of bio based science fiction, interest in AI and located in the UK where I was one short visit to a Waterstone’s away from crossing paths with Neal Asher’s work.My first of Neal’s books was Gridlinked. I was blown away. Ian Cormac was a character I really connected with. The Polity had it all. AI, Golems, Sparkind, battle wagons, weird tech and critters of all types. Bless the Prador and the little children. Beware the Brass Man. Enjoy the creepy belly feel of picturing the reified Sable Keech.I’ve read every book of Neal’s I can download. And that makes for some good reading.I had a proud papa moment when my 24 year old son sent me a photo as he was deploying to the Middle East to participate in operations there. He took a pic of two books he had picked up for his trip. One was Dan Simmon’s Hyperion (a good one), and the other was Neal’s War Factory. A staple. I have taught him well.Thanks Neal for your work! [...]

Transformation Trilogy on Audible UK


It seems that the first two books of the Transformation trilogy are now available on Audible UK read by Peter Noble. Infinity Engine will be there on October 5th.


Gridlinked Free in Australia & New Zealand


Gridlinked free! This is a promotion for Australian and New Zealand readers. Gridlinked is free for one week, from yesterday, featured in iBooks First in a Series Free. Spread the word! Repost!


Who Reads my Books: Benjamin Eriksen


I was born in 1975 and am still not dead. When I’m not sleeping, eating, teaching, fighting or seeing my girlfriend or my kids, I like to read weird books. Science fiction, esotericism, popular science, the obscure and arcane, general weirdness with hooks and jaw muscles that lock up and bleed you dry. Through the years I’ve been paid money to do different things, like selling people books, screaming at men dressed in camouflage, calling people named Chris (Wherever you need to call an office, ask for Chris. He knows EVERYTHING. Debt collection was no different. I’ve spoken to literally hundreds of people called Chris.) and trying to make kids believe in their ability to master the Oxford comma. I’m Ben. Hi.I’ve been favourably likened to a crazed berserker, which is plainly a load of dingo’s kidneys. I do yoga and read books. I got hooked on science fiction in grade school, when one of my oldest and dearest friends and I would check out as many anthologies from the library as we could, and then spent afternoons throwing those books back and forth between each our sofa. The floor was lava. The books smelled like vanilla. Our minds reeled. He is a professor of organic chemistry today. I am a schoolteacher. Back then, we dreamed of travelling to distant worlds, building generational spaceships, breaking the lightspeed barrier, watching the event horizon of a black hole, time paradoxes, artificial intelligences, alien species, quantum physics and escaping a world’s gravity well by use of nanotube space elevators. We were ten.Aged 15, I was given “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams and laughed for a month. My mother would tell me she could hear me laughing through the wall and I had to go to school the next day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, or so help me. Twelve years later I wrote my Master’s dissertation on the canonicity of that book series, and I still can’t decide if it was a really clever piece of work or I was trying to shout louder than Adams’ detractors. Even his biographers insisted his works were nothing but light entertainment.There’s a certain sensitivity to the hilarity of the almost irrationally grotesque that I’ve only found within the works of some very few authors, such as Adams, Iain Banks, Alfred Bester and of course Neal Asher. Too often, science fiction could become too drawn-out, too senselessly descriptive. As all the purists know, be they on the space opera or hard sci-fi side of the fence, the truly great science fiction is about humanity. And when you get right down to it, the history of humanity is a kaleidoscope of grisly, seemingly unbounded brutality, walking hand in hand with a very inappropriate sense of humour.When I was little, my mother gave me a piece of advice that I never forgot. “You can do two things about life. You can laugh, or you can cry. Your choice.” Where I think Asher stood out from all the science fiction I voraciously consumed through my adult years was in how it transfixed me like a deer caught in a truck’s headlights, insecure about its future as a hood ornament. I had bought “The Gabble”. I had no clue.For those of you not in the know (Shame on you. Seriously.), the Gabbleduck is an enigmatic, pyramidal life form that is arguably sentient, seemingly indifferent to other life forms and speaks in weird vocalizations that never. Ever. Repeat. It baffled me. There was an a[...]