Flicked through a copy of Starburst in a shop the other day and found the mini-piece I put together for Sandy Auden, in the magazine's 'publishing news' section ... and saw to my horror that Tor had supplied the wrong book cover for Against Gravity (what you see there is a much earlier version of the cover, entirely unrelated to the artwork now being used). Oh well ...

I found a press release online for Phil's agent deal, which you can find here.


Spent most of the week scraping around the fifteen thousand word mark on Things Unseen/Wonderland, then got past the 'difficult' bit I was in and started moving more quickly towards the twenty thousand mark. In the name of research, I started reading a (second-hand, picked up by MJ on her occasional trawls through the bookshelves of charity shops) copy of 'Psychic Warrior', a purportedly 'true' account of US military remote viewing programs, hoping to glean some information concerning the more bizarre real-life exploits of American black-ops. Instead I rapidly found myself trapped in a sub-Castanedan narrative of wide-eyed spiritual discovery by an individual so unquestioningly God-fearing he makes Marge Simpson look dangerously bohemian. I gave up when the author started getting advice from guardian angels.

Nonetheless, the armed forces in any country has its own quota of mystics and cranks, as does any sufficiently large social group or organisation, and some of the whackier exploits of the US Army are a matter of public record, although I aver on the side of the skeptics in finding little to recommend in the supposed results of these experimental programs: much of it seems the result of wishful thinking and overactive imaginations, and I'm a big believer in the notion that remarkable claims require equally remarkable proof.

Perhaps, given that some of the scenes yet to be written in Things Unseen/Wonderland are far more influenced by the psychedelic journeys of Marvel Comics' Doctor Strange into the dream-realm of the Dread Dormannu, perhaps I was never likely to get a great deal out of supposedly 'true' accounts of remote viewing programs.

Other stuff: Phil Raines of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writer's Circle - writing as Harvey Raines - has found himself a book agent in the form of John Jarrold, which is quite something considering Jarrold is a highly-regarded name in the UK science fiction publishing field (former editor of Earthlight, now freelance editor and, as mentioned, agent). Jarrold was also the 'reader' on Angel Stations: he published the first two books of another GSFWC'er, Mike Cobley, through Earthlight. He also recently signed William King to his agency - King is the author of a series of books for Games Workshop, based on some of their characters, as well as being a one-time, long-ago GSFWC'er. Harvey/Phil's book is called 'Moondog', and probably fits somewhere in that whole 'new weird' area of the genre.

A couple of days ago some of us were discussing this, aware that (H)al Duncan had also mentioned it on the Night Shade Books forum. Subsequent to (H)al mentioning this online, queries came in from a couple of publishers interested in seeing the manuscript. Which just goes to show.


The East Coast/West Coast spoken word event went fairly well on Tuesday, although I think a lot of the success may have come down to the East Coasters considerable experience in live spoken-word performance; I had the feeling they were pulling out their 'greatest hits', which is fine, since there were a good few people there who wouldn't have heard any of them before. But we had at least fifty people all in all,in the basement bar of Blackfriars, which is a good number (the same place, as it happens that SCAMM used to meet until a couple of years ago). A lot of subsequent comments of the 'I didn't think I was going to enjoy it, but I really liked it - when are you doing it again?' variety. Unfortunately, nobody (including myself) remembered to take any photographs.

'Things Unseen' (or Wonderland, as I've been thinking of calling it instead) is halted just for the moment at fifteen thousand words, while I try and work out some of the intricacies of the plot. Basically, I need certain people to do certain things. For this, they need motivation. In order to have the necessary motivation, they need a certain kind of history/life experience that leads them to behave in the ways they do. That will also define the kind of personality they have. Which means, rethinking the kind of characters I've been imagining in my head until now.

For some people this isn't a big deal, but it comes down to my wanting to avoid having unnecessarily heroic characters. I've always been very heavily influenced by something Philip K. Dick said (I'm vaguely recalling here) that he'd rather write about ordinary people with relatively mundane aspirations than the kind of gun-toting violence monkeys that up until that point (late Sixties/early Seventies) had been, if not typical of, then certainly prevalent in a certain type of sf up until that point. When I wrote Angel Stations, I tried as much as possible to write about people who did the things they did because they literally had no choice. Elias bucked that trend slightly - he was more of your gun-toting hero type - but I made damn sure he didn't get off on it (far from it, as a matter of fact).

This part of the writing process is beginning to seem quite familiar to me - you get up to a certain point, you stop for a bit, figure out some of the details to get you through the second quarter or so of the manuscript, and hopefully including some of those cool/potentially interesting settings or events that were floating through your mind when the manuscript was only an idea rather than actual words. It's a little frustrating in the sense that the solution to all this - lots and lots of thinking - feels somehow less than proactive: after all, you're just sitting around, waiting. But I've been here before, and will be here again.


At last, a solution. Turns out there were some other variations of the cover kicking around - I guess the artist must supply several different potential versions of a cover design, from which the editorial people pick what they think might work, then ask me my opinion.

I've now seen yet another design for the book (all mild variations on each other, I should point out, rather than anything radically different) which fits the bill exactly. It seems to make the marketing people happy, and it certainly makes me happy. It's like the cover I'd already seen and approved, but better (basically, a different bloke in the foreground, but similar pose). So, sorted, really. Now I can get on with some other stuff, like ... I don't know ... writing, or something.