Well, I got some good news. The rewrites on Angel Stations are in the clear - or at least that's what my agent told me - so it looks like the book will be coming out as a trade paperback in August 2004 (hey, just in time for the Edinburgh Book Festival ...), the mass market paperback (fly my pretties, fly) a year on from that.

Apart from that, the whole thing with trying to find an alternative name for the bad guys in Angel Stations is starting to get silly. I thought of Eden Alternative (either a low budget sf movie made in 1962, probably starring a porn actress, or else it's a fanzine as someone pointed out), then I thought of Hegira (it's just too Islamic, when the cult is supposed to be based around Western millenarianism.) Eden Faith (retired '60's singer).

I'm probably doomed. Current runners are: Edenate, which has a certain charm, except what would you call a member of the Edenate? I have a dark suspicion it would be an Edenist ... Or as a friend Craig suggested, I could give 'Eden' a suffix from another language - if a Russian one, then Edentsi.

Much thinking must be done.


I was pleasantly surprised to stumble across a complete pdf download of Eric Drexler's seminal pop-science book on nanotechnology, 'Engines of Creation', during a research-browse for the second draft of Against Gravity. It's stored on the website of a nanotech-related group called the Foresight Institute, which I think may have been founded by Drexler himself. Never one to hoard, I present the link here.


I've been struggling the past couple of days to come up with an alternative name for a religious cult in Angel Stations. They had previously been called the Edenists, but some months ago I had one of those slap the head with the palm of your hand moments when I picked up a Peter Hamilton book and realised one of the primary factors in it is a group called the Edenists.

Obviously I had to change it, but every time I come up with something, someone else comes up with a reasonable alternative. I had one a while back with the acronym MOL .. and then lost the note saying what it stood for. It may have been ministry of light which, yes, does sound a bit insipid, but it would have allowed me to call them mollies ... and then someone else told me it was 18th century slang for gay men.

Next up was Hegira, but it's too Islamic. Pity, because it sounds good. But it's too specific, too central to the Islamic religion. So what next?

At this moment - how I feel about it in a couple of days time is another matter - I'm thinking halfway back to where I started from, calling them something like the Eden Alternative. Clunky, but it's got that skiffy ring. And it's definitely not Edenists. Mind you, the phrase does crop up a good few times if you run a google search, but at least it's not misleading (like Hegira, implying it's an islamic cult), and it doesn't tread on anyone's toes (ie Hamilton, so far)

Of course, I'm open to suggestions ...


I feel like I should have a fanfare here ... nothing important really, it's just that Neal Asher was asking for a blurb for Angel Stations, and god knows it's not like anybody who doesn't actually know me has any idea what the damn thing is actually about ... so here's a blurb, taken from the web site i'll be putting up a bit closer to the time. I felt I needed to check things out with my editor before I really felt too comfortable talking about it.

"Elias Murray, ex-soldier, haunted by the effects of genetic manipulation, and on the run from the gangs of 26th Century London; Kim Amoto, lonely rock hermit, imprisoned by her own guilt and the encoded memories of her dead lover; Ernst Vaughn, would-be messiah; and Ursu, a priest on a distant alien planet who must betray his own, very real god in order to save his people.
How they come together, and how their fate is entangled with one of the worlds accessible through the Angel Stations - vast hyperspace terminals created by the race known only as the Angels - is a journey to the heart of a billion-year old war, whose original purpose and meaning has been long forgotten ... "

So there you go, and hope that satisfies your curiousity Neal (yeah, wonder how the above would sound with one of those growly voices you get over Hollywood trailers)- I'd have stuck it up on the Tor UK forums there, but i'm still more of a wannabe media whore than the full blown variety yet.

Trust me though, I'll get there. I'll get there.

So I told people I was going to take a break from writing (yeah, right) but instead I'm keeping myself partly busy at least thinking about what to do with the second nov (sitting around staring at the pretty flowers) and trying to think of ways to direct the plot in the next draft. Do I go for a major overhaul of the way the plot is laid out (alternate chapters set in past and present) or opt for something gentler? Probably something gentler - that makes the change between 'past' and 'present' seem less abrupt. One or two characters will get combined into one. One or two characters will remain roughly the same in their motivation, while undergoing entire history and motivation overhauls. I suspect the hero will be a good bit darker, really screwed up - if my writing is up for it.

I think I'm looking at at least two (no more than three) major drafts, with one or two mini-drafts floating around in there somewhere.


I just stumbled across a piece of news on the Locus website saying that Earthlight, a fairly prestigious imprint owned by Simon and Schuster in the UK, is to close down. I followed a link for more details on the website Publisher's News, but it led nowhere. I wonder what happens now? There's another local author called Mike Cobley who has a three book deal with Earthlight, two of which are actually out. Does this mean a new imprint, or Mike and the rest will be absorbed into the general body of fiction put out by s and s, or something more ominous?

What I do know is that John Jarrold used to be the editor at Earthlight. While he was there, he bought Mike's books. He was also later involved in the buying process for Angel Stations and Against Gravity (While I was writing this sentence, I got a phone call from Mike who'd just received an email from me asking what he knew. It turns out he knew nothing about it).

This doesn't affect me - my deal is with Tor UK, a sf imprint with a company (Pan) that previously had no sf imprint - a testament to the success of Peter Lavery's writers (cross your fingers and hope he wasn't wrong about me). I won't speculate on the political and economic motives for the closure, but what little I do know about the nefarious in and outs of the publishing industry does tell me that frequently imprints and authors get dropped not because they're not making money, not even because they're making lots of money, but because they're not making buckets of money. Or at least that's what it seems like to me at times, browsing endless tables of pastel blue books with yellow lettering by women whose first name always seems to be 'Jenny' (Nowadays they call it chick-lit, but in the olden days they called it 'romance').


I was very interested to stumble across a piece of cut and paste javascript that apparently allows you to insert regularly updated news headlines and links from sf crowsnest, one of the oldest sf news sites around, into your web page. Naturally I thought I'd see if I could get this into a blog column, and it worked just fine. So from now on you'll find said links if you just scroll down the page a little bit. Neat.

Neal Asher just pointed out not to worry too much about our editor's 'savage pencil' technique, which is good, because now I can stop having those dreams where, bizarrely enough, I actually found myself line-editing my manuscript in my sleep. Not sleepwalking, mind ... I've just about got the damn thing memorised in its entirety as it is ...


With all the tender, hanky-waving emotion of Dr Frankenstein bludgeoning his creation to death while screaming 'die, monster, die!' I finally forced myself to email off the revised, edited draft of Angel Stations to my editor this evening. I was trying to explain to someone the other night why I was still holding back, and the best way I could explain it was by referring to the old tale of the thief who breaks into a house and, convinced he hasn't erased all his fingerprints, is still shining every surface in the house when the police turn up the next morning to arrest him. I keep going over the manuscript, thinking '... there must be something I've missed in here ... something!'

The novel was planned out to a certain degree, but with this particular work I let myself drift from the original notes somewhat and, possibly because I was too busy sitting straggly-haired in an armchair with a laptop, rocking backwards and forwards while making vaguely psychotic whining noises, I neglected to thoroughly update the outline to match the changed text. As a result, an early scan of the text revealed one or two huge clunkers which ended up being entirely deleted. To whit: two scenes perhaps forty pages apart in which exactly the same thing happens. One of them was in no way in the service of the story, so out it went. Flensed.

Other minor errors also occurred to me on yet further scans, and these were also corrected, nonetheless leading to the paranoid fear that somewhere in there, I'd missed something. However, it's off to the publishers now. Whether further revisions may yet occur remains to be seen: but for the moment, goodbye, fare thee well and good riddance ...


The series on the history of the novel I mentioned in the last blog turned out to be fascinating. I don't think it's at all going to be oriented towards genre, but that's fine, as they're doing a good job looking at the way fiction evolved into its current form over the past few centuries. The programme begins with Defoe writing a satirical tract called 'The Shortest Way with Dissenters' in the voice of a fictional clergyman ... except the authorities decided people wouldn't realise the clergyman wasn't real, and locked him in stocks. Supposedly, this is one of the beginning points for the use of a fictional narrator's voice (Of course, plays were written in this way prior to Defoe, but until this period in history, the idea of having more than one book - ie the Bible - was still pretty new).

There's a nice article in Wired about the possibilities for technological invisibility cloaks ... it mentions a really nice trick that simply never occured to me. Stick a webcam on your back, plug it into your laptop, hold the laptop screen out from your chest, and you can be seen through. If I had a webcam, maybe I'd give it a shot.

But the article also made me wonder about an idea ... say you had a t-shirt, embedded with tens of thousands of tiny, tiny camera lenses wired into a chip somewhere, all linked in. Programmed so that one side - perhaps the back - projected an image of what was behind the wearer onto the front side of the shirt? Just a thought. Or maybe they'd be illegal, since it might make breaking and entering a lot easier?

Workshopped my second book Against Gravity last night, which left me thinking about the next draft. I can never get the shape of a book into my head until other people read it and tell me what they read. I suspect two or three characters may be consolidated into one.


Apparently Channel Four will be running a four-part series on the history of the novel from this Saturday on, which should be interesting. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps inevitably, the website associated with the series doesn't seem to hint at any sf-nal presence, although not having actually seen the series yet I could, of course, be very wrong. Wells is in there, however; and even Alisdair Gray. William Burroughs floated across the screen during the trailer as well. At the very least, it'll be interesting if they 'dirty' themselves by touching on the general pre-war boom in cheap paperbacks and magazines with novel reprints.

For some reason, this reminds me of a recent conversation. I met someone 'in the know' for a quick chat in a coffee shop about house prices, mortgages etc. I mentioned I'd got a book contract and he perked up.

"Oh, very good," he said. "What kind of thing is it?"

"Science fiction," I said.

Long, blank stare. Several seconds passed during which he said nothing. He reached down, picked up his coffee, stared out the window at the street beyond while sipping it. He looked either embarrassed or angry. I couldn't quite figure out which.

"Anyway," he said, and changed the subject.


I feel somehow duty-bound to record certain details of a party that took place recently amongst certain of my acquaintances; most specifically, an annual bash at which two members of the writer's circle - craig and phil - due to the narrow period between their birthdays, have for some considerable time held joint birthday parties.

It should be said that these are frequently fancy-dress parties, and just so you know, I dressed up as me. Which is what I wear every year. I hate fancy dress. I hate wearing suits. I hate wearing anything I don't want to wear, whether it's a suit, a kilt or a bugs bunny costume. Nothing will ever entice me, ever, to venture into a masquerade at a science fiction convention, nor to witness such an event without rolling into a ball on the floor and alternately howling pitifully and tearing clumps of hair out from my scalp.

Which all brings me to my conversation with Dr Evil.

Dr Evil accompanied a poetess from Edinburgh called Jane - I can't recall Evil's real name - and at one point, when questioned about my blossoming career as a professional author, I discoursed in some fashion about my plans for RWK, various details of which I have discussed in some form or another at other points in this blog. Primarily I spoke with Jane, and about my idea that virtual communities currently represented by games such as Everquest might, in the future, evolve into such powerful entities as to have considerable influence upon the politics of the real world.

Throughout all this, Dr Evil stood, drink in hand, nodding decisively as I touched on various issues. I was pleased to find out the reason he was nodding was that he's the author of a phd thesis on ... virtual communities. And he thought it was a good idea.

So I've got not only a good idea, but an idea that gets phd approval. Nice one.

Now all I need is a good story to go with the good idea ...


Finished the edits on Angel Stations yesterday morning still bleary from staying out late the night before; another marathon session in front of an increasingly geriatric laptop which I keep having to squint at, interspersed with bouts of tapping at the screen until it snaps back to being more readable.

It is a very old laptop, and not long for this world, I fear. I celebrated the end of the edits by listening to Henry Rollins spoken-word performances on earphones late into Sunday night, which caused sufficient cackling, gurgling and sniggering to elicit semi-comatose glares from Mandy.

I am being queried by Mr Asher - and hello Neal, if you're reading this - over in the author's forum at www.toruk.com, in the 'welcome to tor' section under Neal's name. So you may find me engaged in dialogue there.
I've come to that pleasant moment when I can say the edits on Stations are finished. I'll be workshopping the other book, Against Gravity, at the writer's circle next week, which should be interesting. In the meantime, I can relax


Mike Cobley makes some points in his shadowjournal blog about this year's Edinburgh Book Festival, which appears to have a particular dearth of genre fiction in it this year. It does seem a shame that the festival lacks scope in relation to types of writing outside of quite narrow parameters - particularly considering that these days Edinburgh is home to writers like Iain Banks, Ken Macleod and Charles Stross, none of whom are exactly lacking in profile these days.

To a great degree, the Scottish Arts Council's remit is to particularly support forms of writing which promote and help preserve Scottish culture, a fine aim in itself, but a remit which I suspect may be insufficiently clear in its definition of 'culture'. Harsher critics might be led to accuse such a remit of being a device for weeding out authors straying from what might be called 'haggis and heather' style of literature.

I should say I don't particularly see things this way myself; primarily I think it's a problem of communication. Mind you, I worked briefly in a very large Glasgow bookshop several years ago where one manager in particular was particularly prone to loudly declaiming science fiction as unfit even for children, particularly - or so it seemed to me - when I was in the vicinity. Precisely what advantage this gave the speaker still escapes me, although upon her own departure I did gather she was bound for Edinburgh to work as an organiser for the Book Festival ...

Since I wrote that last line there, Mike actually rung me up. Now he's threatening to organise a pavement protest outside the Festival if they refuse to have at least one genre-oriented event. Well, that remains to be seen, but just remember - Down With This Sort of Thing, eh?


An epic editing session got me to within twenty pages of the Angel Stations manuscript this afternoon. It should be done by Sunday sometime, after which I'll still have to read through the whole manuscript again with considerable attention to detail. I'd already warned my editor I felt the last section of the book needed the most editing, and as expected I've doen my own pruning and re-shaping as well as my editor's own suggestions. It's been an interesting experience altogether, albeit an extremely exhausting and laborious one.

Going over the whole manuscript to do the final tweaking shouldn't take too long, but I'll still need to do it soon, since I want to get into the second novel which is being workshopped with my writer's group in several days time. However, I've decided I need some kind of a break, so once I feel reasonably happy with Stations, I'll relax a bit for a week or two - or until I get bored and crank up the laptop.

I got a nice welcoming message from Neal Asher, one of the other writers contracted to Tor UK. I wonder how he found the blog? Random google search perhaps, or are more people reading this? Perhaps I should start asking people. I do get a certain number of hits per day, but its hard to tell just where they're coming from and who they are. Primarily other science fiction writers, I greatly suspect; the evidence so far certainly seems to suggest so. Well, that's ok, because I read all their blogs too.