I'm at a point where I have a good idea how the story for Against Gravity starts, and a good idea how it should end - or rather, I know the ending without knowing the specific events that might bring it about. So that covers maybe the first fifty pages, and perhaps the last fifty pages of the book.

Now all I need to do is figure out what happens in the 250 pages in between ...

I'm working on motivation for Pasquale at the moment; part of it is a desire to find out if the changes happening within him might be fatal, part of it could well be a desire to find out the fate of someone close to him. A wife, or a girlfriend, most likely. I sketched out the first part of the plot the other night. If I think it's going to work, I might post it up here.


I've been doing some plot-related research - browsing through online back issues of Wired looking for ideas, basically. I found some interesting stuff ... specifically interesting is some material about Frank J. Tipler, who's published a book called The Physics of Immortality. It's one of those books with a great, fiction-worthy, but utterly implausible-in-real-life idea; in other words, perfect for using in a science fiction novel.

Tipler's idea is that information is the fundamental building block of the universe, and that physical matter is merely an expression of that information. He suggests that at the end of the universe, assuming an implosion, life in the form of intelligent machines would come to occupy every part of the universe, and that during the collapse the amount of energy and therefore processing power would become effectively infinite.

Or at least, that's what I think he said.

Since I'm playing around with the idea of Pasquale coming into contact with runaway AI's in space, that people on Earth fear because they don't know what they might do, it would be interesting if it turns out at the end that they are in fact building a time machine - a time bridge - that would allow them to leap forward to the end of the universe, to 'meet God' - the ultimate information processor. Tipler apparently even suggests in his book (I haven't read it, only about it) that these future, god-like machine minds would be able to resurrect every creature that ever lived in what is an infinite amount of subjective time. In other words, my AI's could be attempting to construct a door into heaven, and they want Pasquale and the rest of them to come ...


Gosh, I love xmas. Makes me think if it had been me in Room 101 in 1984, instead of Winston Smith, it wouldn't have been a face full of rats. Oh no. They'd have stuck a paper hat on my head and asked me if I wanted any christmas pudding. I'd have denounced my entire family and said Stalin was a great guy who wept tears for lonely children rather than go through that one.

No writing done for the past couple of days for obvious reasons, but I've escaped. It's over! Hooray! Next year, me and Mandy are going to tell everyone we've gone abroad for the week, take the phone off the hook and stop answering the door and just hide in the flat instead. Still, some things did churn through my head.

Everyone keeps asking me if I've heard from my agent or the publisher yet, but of course the answer is no - might be a few months before I do hear, more's the pity, though I've actually had one or two nightmares about it. As for the proposed next book, Against Gravity, I'm not going to even think about starting to write it until I think I've actually got some idea what it's actually about. Mainly at the moment, I've been thinking about motivations. What drives the characters to do what they do? I found one source of inspiration was wandering around my bookshelves, picking up random paperback and reading the back cover blurb. That gives you some idea of what drives that books characters to do what they do. So if I wrote a back cover blurb for Against Gravity, what would it say?

Financial gain is one of the most obvious motivations. Say the main character in Against Gravity is called, for the sake of argument, Pasquale. P. is one of the wired-up soldiers I've been talking about, with the spreading nanoviruses or whatever within them. Since the end result of this constant internal evolution is unknown, there are two conclusions: the soldiers - or what's inside them - constitute a potential threat to society at large.

Society's response might well be to dispose of a potential threat. Alternatively, it might be possible to profit from such developments, if you can put it under controlled conditions. Perhaps Pasquale is hired by some mysterious benefactor, and given the task of tracking down his former comrades. The given reason is that they need to be brought in because the tech in their bodies is killing them. Because they're super soldiers, it takes a super soldier to hunt a super soldier down. which is why they need Pasquale. One of Pasquale' former comrades tries to persuade him the tech isn't killing them, it's transforming them.

Another motivation to action for the mysterious benefactor and whatever power group/corporation/bad guys he might represent would be the existence of the AI's that may be guiding the super soldiers to their ultimate destiny. They too could certainly be a potential threat, even to the existence of humanity. But if this turns out to be a story of transformation, then perhaps it's a story about the ultimate transformation of humanity rather than its presumed destruction.

Except of course, from a certain point of view, that transformation might equal destruction. Think Blood Music by Greg Bear.


It's Midwinter Eve. Not Christmas Eve, because there's no such thing. Christians nicked the festival from the European natives and renamed it after their own Godhead. It's not about worshipping vague mid-eastern tribal deities, it's about hanging out with friends and giving each other presents because it gets very dark and very cold (at least where I live), so you need something to cheer you up.

Inspiration has slowly been trickling in for Against Gravity. What I have so far is an Idea, but I'm not yet sure what the actual Story is. Meaning, I know the vague backstory, but I'm not yet sure of the more specific details of the plot, the what-happens-and-then-what-happens of it all. Curiously enough, I do get some inspiration from reading other writer's back-cover blurbs on their books. I may have a go at writing one for Against Gravity, since if I come up with something that sounds compelling and exciting, then maybe that means the idea is compelling and exciting too ...

Still working my way through some minor but, as it turns out, very necessary corrections to Angel Stations. Noted to my annoyance there's already a book called Angel Station (singular)_by Walter Jon Williams, listed on Amazon. Bah.


Well. Just spent a couple of hours watching one of the best damn movies I've seen in my life, ever. period. So good I'm going to steal its central premise, sort of. It's an idea I've seen used before in several books and movies, but even so in this context it took me by surprise. However, since it's such a cracking idea around which to build a plot twist, I'm not going to reveal it here. Since it would genuinely ruin the reading experience, should i a) continue to feel enthusiastic about it, and b) ever actually get around to writing the goddamn thing.


Slow day, and so it should be, since I won't be working at the printers for the next couple of weeks. Mostly messing around with the www.gsfwc.cjb.net and shipbuilding.cjb.net websites, since it keeps me busy, helps me wake up etc etc. bunch of bikers went roaring past the window a while back, guess they're off for their hols. must have been maybe a hundred? (I live on part of a very long, very busy main road).

Writing-wise, I'm going to try and spend some time making revisions to Angel Stations. I'd meant to leave it 'til the new year, but after I flicked through a marked-up copy from someone at the writer's circle, I realised how many admittedly minor but no less horrendous glitches there were.

Wow! Just got a phone call from an old flatmate who's back home in Germany, social worker called Antje. She's doing okay. I gave her the phone number of our old, mutual flatmate Mike Cobley, who's in the middle of writing the Shadowkings trilogy for Simon and Schuster.


I had some more thoughts on a possible plot for Against Gravity, and I've come up with this short outline. I'm glad its short, since that means the idea is fairly tightly focused. I've come to understand a plot outline that's very long is really a sign that you haven't figured out what your story is.

Backstory: retired, obsolete cyborgs from war plan to escape earth to space with aid of rogue ai’s in space, because they believe the machine parts of them are still developing in unexpected ways and altering them accordingly. Since what they will become is inherently unpredictable, they represent a danger to common humanity. They must escape or die.

Narrator: pasquale has had cyborg elements removed, but due to unexpected growth of machine parts, to remove any more of them would kill him and others like him. as a result, they are required to be constantly monitored, not unlike criminals in parole. They are regarded as living evidence of the bad old days; current legislation and political climate is much more oriented towards green policies in order to attempt to save damaged earth. Eventually, pasquale and others like him realise they will be interned in hospital-camps as the changes within them progress. Since this leaves them powerless and uncertain of their fate, they must escape to space, or die.

Well, that's it. Let's see if I can stick with it. God knows, it doesn't bear much resemblance to what I thought Against Gravity would be about, but at least it's coherent. My only concern is the same I'm sure lots of people who write SF have, which is that, described in ultra-brief form, the plot sounds kind of ... silly ...

I suppose that's a question of treatment, really. The problem with SF is that in the description, it just sounds, well, silly, sometimes. I suspect thats mainly because the aforementioned outline could be a plot for an episode of Stargate (which, in case you're wondering, I think sucks), or even that awful Starship Troopers cartoon series (why?)

Reminds me of when I was working in Borders Books and they went round a table and asked all of us during a training session to describe a book we'd read and really enjoyed. I started describing Eon by Greg Bear. I said it was about scientists to investigate a mysterious rock that flies into the solar system that goes into parking orbit around Earth, turns out to be a clone of a Martian moon, and has seven cities in vast chambers within it, except for the last chamber, which goes on forever ... by the time I got to that point, they were all staring at me like I was a complete nutter. I'm a pretty reasonable, normal(ish) kind of guy, but I'll never forget one woman in particular who was looking at me like I really ought to be locked up. This is when I began to understand why some people I know, because of the nature of their professional careers, if they're ever asked outside of a certain group of friends what do they read, they lie. And there was me thinking we lived in an enlightened society ...


Apparently, I was reading, somewhere on the Locus website, Fukuyama has his own views on what they're calling the Singularity idea of cultural and technological development (which I first came across in Vernor Vinge's books); he thinks it'll be a biological development, rather than a computer/whatever situation. Assuming any such thing happens at all. Just sort of interesting, in the light of having read a little of the Fukuyama book I got out of the library.

Not really done any writing the past week, more thinking about ideas. I'll probably keep the two fragments I tried to develop since I think they're good examples of scene setting, but again I think what I might eventually write will bear no resemblance to the ideas in those fragments. I'm off work for a couple of weeks now, so I should be able to work up enough guilt to actually get around to doing something useful. I got a copy of the manuscript for Angel Stations back from a friend in the writer's circle covered in little blue pen marks; I've been going through the story fixing a lot of the things suggested there. Always room for improvement, I guess.

My idea of what Against Gravity is about seems to have evolved into something completely different now. Now I have a picture of an old warrior-type who's been effectively washed-up in the aftermath of some kind of world war. The technology that's inside his body is itself not well understood, and it's still changing him from the inside out. Even though he's supposed to be 'kind' of a good guy, he symbolises a lot of the bad things that happened, and for that reason he finds himself increasingly shunned by the society of the time. He's supposed to protect and serve, etc, but he finds himself in a personal conflict. Some of his old war buddies want to go upwell into space and estabish their own society, seemingly with the aid of hinted-at sentient ai's. In that sense, it's effectively a 'breakout' story (or should they actually be in prison, or some kind of rehabilitation hospital? There's something to think about.). His old war buddies want to escape a society that once needed them but now rejects them. He still feels drawn to work on behalf of the human race when he thinks he's still needed. But as the nanotechnology etc. within him continues to change him in unpredictable ways, he finds himself suffering a special kind of dilemma - is he actually even human any more, or perhaps a machine that doesn't realise it isn't?


Yay! Went to Hillhead Library (in the West End of Glasgow) and found Francis Fukuyama's Our Posthuman Future. Except now I've got it, I'm not sure it's precisely the right research material after all ...

Posthuman Future seems primarily about biogenetics, which is interesting, but then I realised what I'm really looking for, for hte security officer character, is biogenetics, plus cybernetics, bionics, etc. Mind you, I'm worried the whole 'weary warrior with added futuristic bits unable to refit into society' might actually turn out to be a bit hackneyed as plot ideas go? But at the same time, it didn't do Gibson any harm with Case, and the idea was old even then ... and again, I'm hoping the focus of the story will be more on The Theme I've been talking about. Perhaps if I'm a good enough writer, I can avoid these traps, if I'm careful.
Here's some more variations I was thinking about.

What alternative story lines are there?
The station is almost finished. The security chief is ex-military, cyborged to the eyeballs. He’s a veteran of the recent wars. He becomes aware of approaches from people he fought with, who have become second-class citizens, partly because of the changes made to them. Many, now uncyborged, are finding it too difficult to adjust to life without their add-ons; unable to cope with being merely human again. Despite legal restrictions on what they and everybody else can and can’t do, they are intending to leave Earth, either for orbit or somewhere else (moon, mars or something), so they can become more of what they are, and consequentially less human. The security chief finds himself torn as a result, between his human self and his job, and the emotional attachments he has, and the ‘call of the silicon’, I guess you’d call it. He’s supposed to protect the station at all costs, but his ex-compatriots need the station as a stopping-off point on their way off Earth. His main contact with his old war buddies is the voice for the posthuman ethos. He tries to convince security officer that taking humanity offworld in a space colony won’t work as long as they are human, ie capable of repeating the same old mistakes.
At the same time, security officer guy has other worries. The reality of human nature is constantly intruding on the station’s final construction. Different people have different ideas of what the station symbolises. For the architect, it symbolises hope and the future of mankind. For others, it represents a symbol of a prosperous few escaping the ruined earth and leaving the poor behind to drown in the ashes.
Here’s some questions. Do the security officer’s old buddies want to steal the orbital for themselves? Or would they necessarily have any use for it? Are they temporarily hiding out on it?

So there you go. That's what I came up with last night, anyway.

Yes, it is possible to go from coming up with this kind of noodly, all over the place nonsense to something resembling a structured narrative.

I got around last night to reading some of a book I got about fifteen years ago and never read, called 'Reality Studio', something like that, cyberpunk-related stories and articles. I'm now in a much better position to appreciate what William Gibson says in an interview in the book, about how he wrote his first three books. I especially like the bit where he talks about his first novel (remember, it won awards all over the place) as being this sort of barely-held together construction of string and sealing wax. And I thought, as I think when I read these things, God, so that's a common experience? I'm not alone?

Except I rather suspect that if Angel Stations does come out, I really don't think it's going to win the Nebula and Hugo combined ....

But I do like the idea of some unspecified war in the recent past which is never directly referred to in terms of causes or even major participants. Gibson talks about how much Neuromancer was influenced by Escape From New York (!) in terms of random, throwaway lines that refer to some past conflict. And because it's merely hinted at - and also because you get this specificity of description - brand names, etc in Gibson's writing - it gives you much more of a sense of the then and now than you do in trad sf which, as Gibson points out (and I was aware of, but never got as far as specifically identifying it) tends to just say 'he got in the spaceship' or 'he looked out the window at the atmosphere plant'/


It's a couple of hours later and I'm thinking. Let's come up with a brand new approach; start again ,see what I come up with.

Somebody wants to build a big fucking space station that could house enormous numbers. Why? Because there's been a very bad war. Not one person against the other, more like a clump of dozens of separate incidents that coincidentally take place during the same several years period, but taken together in that way, even though many are not necessarily related, the damage caused is similar to that caused by an all-out world war (though not necessarily nuclear). My idea is, this might happen if military technology not only got sufficiently advanced, it also became by various means available to what we like to refer to as 'developing' (ie not rich enough to buy our tv's and dishwashers, etc) nations. Imagine all those border wars, in a hundred years time, using all that astonishingly advanced weapons tech ... run for the hills ...

This could include things like genetically targeted viruses. You might be able to target them against specific social groups, particularly those with low genetic variance because the population has been relatively unaffected from mixing with other genetic groups; Icelandics, for example, are more related to each other than the rest of hte world, which might make them a target. You could even engineer a virus to attack a single individual, or members of a family, if you could get hold of their genetic material (hair, skin cells, whatever). Imagine how paranoid a president would have to be; everybody with money would be living like Howard Hughes, ultra-tidy and clean.

This might persuade some people that investing in an orbital colony might not be a bad idea. My thought is that it would be clear that the potential to actually wipe out life on earth would be great enough to provide the clear motivation. Let's posit that military tech spin-offs include radically cheaper ways of manufacturing materials both on and off earth for such space-based construction. Perhaps the station is part of an international co-operation between nations, a sort of public relations exercise in an environment where some form of mars colonisation/terraforming might be taking place.

The man ultimately responsible for building the station is idealistic, thinks he can create a utopian society ... but at the same time, people are taking advantage of tech that allows people to integrate fully with machines, possibly on the nanotechnological level. There are those, who, witnessing what people do to each other, might not entirely wish to remain human. Many of these people are regardless involved in the construction of the space station, since they're relatively suited to the environment and much better equiipeed than regular people at coping with zero gee.

Hmm. Not sure. I'll have to think some more. Live and uncut, folks!
I decided to put the first seven thousand words or so of angel stations up on the net, just on the vanishingly small chance somebody might be interested. It's very strange, writing all this without knowing if a single person is paying any attention whatsoever. In a sense that doesn't matter, because as I explained to somebody in the pub the other night, even if you can't see or don't know if you have an audience, feeling like you're talking out your ideas to somebody or something can make all the difference. It forces you to more clearly define what's going through your head as if you were having a normal conversation with somebody - somebody very patient who doesn't keep interrupting, mind. You can picture a nodding head, ready to pick up on any of the indiscrepancies of what you're describing.

Anyway, here's the link to that excerpt.

The idea for the other, unwritten book came to me while I was reading a book called Oath of Fealty, by the science fiction writers Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. They're both pretty right-wing writers, and, being Scottish, I'm typically more left-wing minded by far. I can't think of a specific personal political allegiance, though at the moment if I think good politics, I maybe think Michael Moore (I just read Stupid White Men). Oath is about an architect who builds a vast arcology - a self sufficient, enclosed city contained within a single massive building - called Todos Santos, on the edge of a near-future Los Angeles. It's a very clear description of the ultimate gated community built literally like an enormous castle, with the primarily Mexican and black poor people left wallowing in the shit outside the building. The architect in Oath sees this all as a kind of trial run for building a space colony, an O'Neill cylinder in orbit around Earth or possibly somewhere else.

I thought it would be nice to write a more left-wing reply to this typically American, capitalism-will-win-over-all scenario. Perhaps, I thought, the poor people would have something to say about all of this.

Say an architect has gone ahead and built - or is in the process of building - just such a community, but in space. Not the most original of ideas - story about building a colony - but I think the approach is a little less typical. I think at heart what I'm aiming for is a story about utopian ideals - ie, let's do this and this, and we can create the perfect society.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Such ideals never take into account the complicated vagaries and frequently irrational ideas that make humans, human. It's the things that are wrong with us that define us just as much as the things that are right with us; it's the very mixture of nobility and savagery that makes us human, and certainly, from a storytelling perspective, interesting. In other words, if you have a not untypical situation of somebody trying to build the perfect future science-fictional society, what is it about the people who actually have to live there, that's going to make it all go horribly wrong?

Here's another inspiration, that I've had in mind. In Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke posits a distant colony around another star, a society in which the old Earth religions have been deliberately and carefully flensed away - the Bible, the Talmud, Quoran, the works, on the basis that since these different religions tend to promote strife, it might be best not to load a new human civilisation with these things.

Anybody see what's wrong with this picture?

I should say right not that I'm a worried atheist. Meanign, I believe in the bright shining light of rationality above all else, but at the same time, acknowledge that it would be a bit of a shame if this was really all there was to it. Which does make me rather hope the human genome project might lead to something resembling actual immortality ... I don't know about you, but I fancy being around in another billion years or so, as long as I can keep life interesting ...

It's my firm belief (god knows, the evidence is there) that if you try and create a society free of those things which generate strife, then people, being people, will just go and invent brand new ways of not getting on with each other. As far as I can tell, religions usually come about because somebody either has a stroke and hears voices or has a nervous breakdown and hears voices, and then for some reason I don't quite get (perhaps because they feel unfulfilled in their lives in some way I don't begin to comprehend), lots of people decide to take them at their word and run about killing anybody who doesn't agree with them. Meaning, in my long-winded way, that if you could create a society like the one found in Songs of Distant Earth, they'd be generating prophets, seers and madmen just as often as any nation back on Earth. You can put people in a perfect society, but you can't make the people perfect.

At first, I was playing with ideas of how the story might go. Something about an architect building an orbital colony after some global war in order to provide a way in which the human race might continue if things got any worse. Then a deeper theme occurred to me. Posthumanism is the idea that given appropriate technology, people might change in such ways that they might no longer be what we understand as human. So there's a possible theme there; on one hand, some people want to create a society where they can escape the madness of Earth, but unfortunately, since they're human too, then by definition they take the madness with them. And on the other hand, representing a separate point of view, are posthumans, who by virtue of effectively ceasing to be human, may escape the drives and desires that bring about most of our failings. In other words, they represent an argument which goes like this; the only way humanity can improve itself in the ways it has dreamed of in utopian ideals, is by giving up those very things which make us human (as we understand the term) in the first place.

Anyway, I had some bits and pieces written, several thousand words, maybe, of initial plot idea, opening chapters etc. I still like them, but I'm thinking now that they were not going in the direction I wanted to go. So perhaps I should pull back and think again, about exactly what I want my story to be. It occurred to me what I was doing was at the very least thematically similar to what Bruce Sterling did in Schismatrix ( a fantastic book) with his Shapers and Mechs, but I'm just a lowly unpublished novelist ... So perhaps I should stop writing in this blog now that I've got myself up to writing speed and do what I'm supposed to be doing, which is looking into definitions of posthumanity, so I know what I'm talking about. And I really have to get that Fukuyama book on Posthumanism out of library ...
I've decided to work on a couple of things to take my mind off the fact I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing, which is working on a book. Myself and Mandy (my girlfriend, who lives with me) got back from the pub last night and slept in until the early-ish afternoon. Too cold to get up, basically. Now, being Glasgow, it's not five yet, and it's already pitch black outside.

Several years ago I put up a website for Shipbuilding, a paperback anthology me and some other members of the GSFWC (glasgow sf writer's circle) put together for the World SF Convention in Glasgow in '95, only a couple of hundred yards from where I live. There were two and a half thousand copies of the book printed, and they were given away. I won't even start into just how astonishingly unappreciative I had the feeling a lot of people were, and it was the first stark realisation on my part that a lot of people didn't read books. Worse, those who did read books, read .... well, shit, basically. Star Trek novels. And understand, shipbuilding was no cheap knock-off of stuff that couldn't get published anywhere else. Over half the stories were reprints of stories that appeared in highly regarded literary sf mags like Interzone, and some of these people went on to become novelists, such as Mike Cobley, who's in the middle of writing the Shadowkings Trilogy for, I think, Simon & Schuster. (I did the website for that, it's at www.shadowkings.co.uk, or at www.michaelcobley.com.). I designed the site, by the way ...

There are others, too, like myself working towards writing a novel, and almost all of us have been professionally published. So forgive me if I feel a little depressed at times when I or someone I know is at some convention and you find a pristine copy of Shipbuilding - pristine enough when you know it hasn't been even as much as opened. Well, there you go. I could tell some other stories of publishing horror ... but maybe I'll save them for later.

So, anyway ... I noticed the other day the old shipbuilding link was down. It was run off of an account owned by neil williamson, who currently takes care of the paperwork for the writer's circle (which, if you're interested, meets every second tuesday at about 7.30pm at Borders Books in Glasgow). So I decided to waste valuable writing time by setting up a new site for it run off my own internet account, and although it's not nearly finished yet, it's at http://shipbuilding.cjb.net.

Since this blog is supposed to be primarily about me trying to sell my current novel Angel Stations and get another book written in the meantime, I'll put in a link to the story which started the novels off. The story is Touched by an Angel, originally in Shipbuilding, and therefore on the shipbuilding website. First in Interzone, reprinted twice, honourable mentions, yadda yadda. I'm quite proud of it. Now that I think about it, maybe I'll put up links to some of my other previously published stories sometime ...

Anyway. I'm going to go off, eat my dinner now that I've successfully and flagrantly used up the hours between (late) breakfast and dinner, and think about what direction Against Gravity is going to go. I haven't even said yet what it's supposed to be about, have I? Maybe next time ...


Why White Screen of Despair?
Because it's a close relative of the Blue Screen of Death. That only crashes your computer. The White Screen of Despair is what every writer goes through when they sit down and wait for inspiration to strike.

If you're a writer, you'll know what I mean. Sometimes, you just sit there, you make some coffee, watch some tv, feel guilty about that, come back to your writing machine and sit there. Maybe you even write something from time to time, just to see if inspiration will strike. Because if you really are a writer, you know it will - if not now, soon.
Personally, the thing I find works for me is, sometimes, writing notes to get my thoughts clear. Which is why it occurred to me keeping a blog might not be a bad idea (apart from stroking what some people might call an insanely huge ego ... all right, all right, but everybody's keeping blogs these days, so why not me?)

I have a more specific reason for keeping this diary. I am attempting to sell my first novel. The novel is called Angel Stations, and is a work of science fiction. I have the advantage of having a literary agency working for me, and there is, at the very least, a slim chance a Big Publisher might just take the thing. If it did sell, it would be nice to have this to look back at, and see what was going through my mind at the time, and at the same time act as a sort of central loci for whatever inspiration or ideas I might be seeking while I work on the next one.

Some personal info: My name is G.M. Gibson (sort of sounds authorly, doesn't it? I had the idea that if I ever wrote a mystery/crime novel, I'd use something like G. Macintyre Gibson, which has a certain bourbon-and-bullets ambience to it.) I've published a couple of stories in paying markets over the years, in Skeleton Crew (March 1990), Interzone (March 1994), and a couple of other places over the years. In '97, I was unemployed for six months, and decided to fulfill my longheld personal ambition to sit down and write a novel. That was called Touched by an Angel, based on the story of the same name that had appeared a few years before in Interzone. I'm quite proud to say that that same story got picked as one of the best stories of the year by Locus Magazine, and made it as far as an Honourable Mention in Dozois' Best SF of the year anthology. Okay, yes, not as good as actually being in it, but nice all the same.

Some people seem to see getting an agent as difficult, but I got one on the second try. That was a few years ago. After the novel, I did a year studying computer science. Bad move. I gave up two-thirds of the way through and went to Berlin for the summer. Then I went to work for Borders Books for a year and a half. Even bigger mistake. Remember; Borders is not a bookshop, it is a supermarket that sells whatever its shareholders regard as a consumable product with an acceptable profit level. In the case of Borders, that happens to be books. If you want to work in a real bookshop, find a small, impoverished one where you actually get to have proper conversations with the customers.

Then I went freelance doing graphic design, and finally - just over a year ago - started thinking about doing things that actually matter to me, like writing books. One year later, I have a 140,000 word novel manuscript called Angel Stations, related to the first novel. It's my intention, amongst other things, to record here what happens to that manuscript, and what happens as I attempt to write another book.

The current status is that the new manuscript is with a Big Publisher who are interested enough in the first couple of chapters to see the rest. Two weeks ago I sent the complete manuscript to my agent (in case you're wondering, she represents a lot of published authors, including some names who are pretty well known in the field of horror). Now all I can do is sit back and wait for what they have to say.

Now. Assuming they don't just say thanks, but maybe next time, then the very least I might have to do is rewrite parts of Angel Stations, or cut it down to a certain length - it is pretty long. I can only trust my agent when she emailed me to say that she 'loved the book'. Considering some of the people she agents, this makes me breathe easy. Or they might require more substantial rewrites. If they're interested in the book at all.

I think I'll probably write a fair bit about the other novel I'm trying to work on in the meantime. It's provisionally titled Against Gravity, and is more of a relatively-near-future thriller involving the construction of a near-Earth orbital colony. Perhaps not the most original of idea, but what I like to think distinguishes this is that this time, I have A Theme. Yes, A Theme. The kind of Theme you like to think you can come up with, and then merely use fiction as a tool to express your Considered Ideas to the world at large. If only it were that easy. Usually, most of us, including me, we have a Cool Idea and write a neat adventure story around it. I'm sort of hoping that the fact that I have A Theme this time suggests I'm sort of turning into more of a real writer ...