I have found the light at the end of the tunnel, and its name is Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. I don't know how or why I never heard of this, but I just about had seizures laughing after I tripped over it on YouTube by semi-accident. Enjoy.


One other thing about Perfect Circle/Firecracker: it's short, which came up in a conversation between myself and Hal Duncan in the pub that despite the lengths of the books we both write, there's a lot of appeal in writing something much shorter. Firecracker is maybe three hundred pages - a rough estimate gave me a word count of between seventy and seventy-five thousand words. That's a little over half the length of the three books I've written so far for Tor UK. One of those can take me anywhere from three to six months to write, once I've got the intricate details of the plot worked out. I figure a book the length of Firecracker might be closer to six weeks, eight maximum. There's a lot of appeal in that because it means I could write a book outside of a contract 'between' contract books.

I did start writing a radio play a couple of weeks ago, but it stalled rapidly, partly because of outside stuff, and partly, maybe, because I was still tired after competing Stealing Light. I dug out the outline for A Hundred Houses - sort of a gothic horror-thriller - having forgotten how thoroughly I'd worked out the details of the story. It's all there. I can't help wondering if it might not be a good idea for the New Year to sit down and write the damn thing before I get lost in terminal procrastination.

I finally got around to reading Sean Stewart's 'Firecracker' (known as 'Perfect Circle' in the States) and found myself more than pleasantly surprised to find it entirely matched the hype it got on publication a couple of years ago. On the surface, it's about a guy called Bill 'Dead' Kennedy, so-called because of his love for punk and his ability to see and interact with dead people. There's some really nice touches in here, such as the ghost roads that materialise out of thin air and he's never quite had the nerve to go all the way down; or the fact he doesn't drive because he can't tell if the person he just had to swerve around in the middle of the road is really there, or dead and invisible to the rest of mankind.

Here's a snippet from an old review on SFSite.com by Donna McMahon:

Perfect Circle is about lots of things. It's about gender roles and class in a vividly drawn modern Texas. It's about ownership -- of people, money and guns -- and about pride, guilt and rage. It's a searing snapshot of "normal" life in a working class suburb of America where the dead people seem a lot more functional than the living ones.

It's also a good story, with a funny, likeable protagonist who we find ourselves rooting for despite his blatant flaws. Finally, pop culture mavens will get a kick out of the contemporary music references (all of which were lost on me, but what the heck).

This is a real rarity -- an intelligent, sensitive and entertaining novel about what it means to be male. I think it will speak most strongly to men, but it should appeal to many readers, mainstream as well as genre.

What Donna nails is that the book stretches out far beyond the default genre considerations, mainly thanks to the depth and quality of Stewart's characterisation. If you've got a bunch of book tokens by New Year, you could really do a lot worse than get your hands on this book.


I finally made it along to the refurbished Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow the other day - it's right around the corner from where I used to live on the edge of the West End. I particularly enjoyed the display of traditional African weaponry - shields, spears, and a very prominent AK47 in the centre of the case. Nice one.

Something occurred to me as I toured the exhibits and paintings with a friend: that it's easy to spot Scottish art, particularly traditional Scottish art, because everybody looks utterly miserable. There's the painting of a young child's funeral, outside a bleak cottage on a bleak hillside while bleak clouds sail overhead. Or the bleak last stand of a clan defending some miserable looking crag, or waiting bleakly for a ship to take them to the New World and away from the old, etc, etc. I can't remember too many of the details beyond that because it was all getting a bit bleak. Picture some corny chocolate box illustration of a Victorian street scene except everyone looks suicidal and you've pretty much got the picture.

I have a habit of missing the boat where particular online memes are concerned, but this is partly because writing deadlines are just about the only deadlines I meet in this or any other life. There was a recent blog-a-thon thing over Carl Sagan, and memories thereof, the idea being to commemmorate him. Two things I can say about Carl: when I think about his tv series Cosmos, the thing that always cracked me and friends at school up wasn't the way he said 'billions and billions', it was the way he said 'organic soup'.

Second memory: I'd almost forgotten about this one, shockingly enough. Sagan gave a public lecture at Glasgow University in the mid-Eighties.

I was there. Weirdly enough, the above link appears to imply he did quite a few lectures here, but I only recall one. Perhaps it was a paid thing and I couldn't afford any more than one, although I could have sworn (and of course memory fails me) it was free.

I remember it rapidly turned into a war between the Enlightenment and that Old Time Religion. Some bloke behind me and my then-girlfriend were arguing over exactly how many wings different types of Angel had, according to their Heavenly ranking system. Sagan batted through their arguments and shouted promises of salvation in the next life like Arnie in Terminator 1 drilling his way through a police station full of surprised cops. Now there's a memory.


After speaking to Bill King a couple of weekends ago (Bill's the author of several novels for Games Workshop) he gave me an old Palm handheld computer that was getting a bit old and that had been gathering dust. I've never managed to get my hands on one of these things or even get much of an opportunity to use one, so naturally, I wanted one really badly. Partly because I was aware some people - like Bill - have done a lot of writing and editing on these machines with the use of a portable keyboard.

By the way, if you have one of these things because of your work so you hate it, don't blame me, when I play with the thing it still feels like it dropped from out of twenty minutes into the future and straight into my hands.

I've got a roll-up keyboard I've never had a chance to use; however it's usb, so won't plug into the palm. So either I need another keyboard, or some kind of adapter. The idea that you could write, edit and so forth on something so small is still amazing to me. It also ties into my reaffirmed desire to 'do' something in the summer of 2007, like visiting the States or Europe for several weeks, finances depending. If I did do such a thing, being able to write on the hoof has a huge amount of appeal.

So far, it's been a busy December, without much in the way of writing. My boiler died, and it cost me more money than I'd really rather spend after several months unable to work both to get it fixed and to replace the ailing and now somewhat dangerous old boiler. I just spent the better part of a fortnight without any heating because it died after nearly blowing itself off the kitchen wall. My heating is back, but my savings have taken a big dent. My current lodger is leaving in early January, about the worst time to be trying to get someone new in. I've always got someone in really fast, though, so I don't think there'll be a problem. A friend has been muttering about taking the room for a couple of weeks, circumstances depending, while in-between places.

Otherwise, I find myself thinking no longer in terms of 'when I get better' so much as 'now that I'm better'. A couple of miles brisk walk is no problem now, which is good because I need the exercise. The only thing keeping me off the bike at the moment, really, is that it's so cold, although one of the wheels may need replaced and it probably needs a tune-up at the bike shop.


Every now and then, someone comes up with a point of view on some current topic - something so clearly and concisely true - that it offers itself up as the kind of conversational gambit that, in the mind at least, can easily be imagined creating one of those surprised and speechless breaks in a flow of heated conversation relating to that topic.

The topic: Iraq and the Bush Administration. There's an interview with James Morrow - one of the great satirists, and author of erudite and excoriating novels such as Towing Jehovah (about a tug delivering the fallen body of God, all one and a half kilometres of him, from the Equator where he landed to the North Pole before he gets stinky) - in the new Locus, and if you go here you can read an excerpt from that interview, in which he says:

For me, the great irony of our time is that even as Bush is denouncing Darwin, condemning stem-cell research as blasphemy, and encouraging what he calls 'faith-based initiatives,' his administration is hoping against hope that something resembling a rational, secular, post-Enlightenment republic will emerge in Iraq. It's a towering irony.

And that nails it, really.


Just over a week since I finished the book, and I feel like I'm finally starting to recover. I spent about six or seven days flopping about, getting inexplicably tired at various times, and waking up at really odd hours. Things have stabilised in the past day or two, though, and I'm getting up and going to bed at (for me) normal times.

Outside of that, I think the universe is telling me it's really, really time I got another day job.

Let's have a look at the list of cataclysms so far: my laptop died, and I bought a mac mini to replace it. Cost, about three hundred quid. Then there's the new sofa from Ikea - cost, about the same. Okay, it wasn't an essential, but I got it several weeks before everything else went haywire. A giant bill from the electricity company (long story) doesn't help either. Then my boiler died the other day. Cost of fixing or replacing: don't even ask, because I'm not sure I want to know. I have someone I've been recommended coming around next week. And now my mortgage is going up. Hoo-fucking-ray.

I'm not penniless - yet. But given I'm walking home from the West End a lot these days, I think I might be more or less fixed. More or less, because I still get some pain, but probably not any more than a lot of people have to deal with in the course of their normal working day.

What I do, normally, is graphic design on the lower end of the scale - meaning, I don't usually originate illustrations, and the majority of what I wind up doing is by the standards of the trade relatively simple, using software like Quark Xpress, Illustrator, Photoshop and so forth. I could probably get full time work, but that would severely cut into the writing. So I figure come the New Year, if nothing else has shown up by then, I'll get a job in some small shop somewhere for a couple of days a week. That, plus the money I get from a lodger, should just about keep me afloat.