Pizza, books, and bank cards

Although still not 'officially' published (still a few days to go), Nova War nonetheless has pretty much shot up to what I'd call a comfortable ranking on Amazon at the time of writing. By way of celebration, and by way of saying thank you to Emma for financially supporting me for the several weeks it took me to sort out some bank card woes, we went to a local pizzeria called Alleycats here in Taipei, running into two English-teaching friends of hers when we got there. They turned out to be science fiction fans, which led to some typically spirited conversation about Frank Herbert and Babylon 5, amongst other things.

If you see someone in Taiwan and they're white, chances are they're teaching English. It gets to the point there's really no need to even ask: in much the same way, they assume I also teach, unless informed otherwise.



Just a wee note to say there's an interview with me double-posted at two separate review blogs - Fantasy Book Critic, and Walker of Worlds. Both review blogs are very worth your time checking out.


money, the future, and the black market

Here's something I've been wondering about while I work on an outline: how would the black market operate in a future economy where money exists only in digital form? How would you buy and sell things you weren't legally allowed to buy and sell if money primarily or solely existed in some electronic medium which could be monitored with relative ease?

Thinking hard.



Well, that's been fun. I have a Mastercard, partly for internet purchases, but also so I can withdraw emergency cash if I need it. I've been waiting for a new debit card to come to me out here in Taiwan for several weeks now - yes, several weeks, don't ask - and figured at the worst, I can make cash withdrawals with the Mastercard, and pay it off immediately using my online bank accounts. Simple, right?

Except the Mastercard locked up the very first time I actually tried to use it to withdraw cash. So I called up their customer service line and they unfroze it, except actually they didn't, because it still didn't work. And after several more calls, I wind up with some guy who tells me off for not telling them I'd be using it abroad, and effectively - or at least, that's the way I read it - telling me to piss off.

Which is kind of ironic, really, given I signed up to it ... in an airport, on my way to Asia.

A lot of googling while praying for my debit card to hurry up and arrive through the post reveals this is far from an unusual scenario. Nor is it unusual for people who are in fact aware of these frankly arcane rules to inform their credit card company they'll be using their plastic while abroad ... only to find it doesn't, in fact, work, and they wind up stranded or worse.

Not in the best of moods right now.

New links and a review

I got my hands on a neat little piece of multi-platform software called Dropbox that backs up my most important files and documents to a remote server in realtime, and it turned out to have a facility that allows me to store the short stories and book samples on this blog in such a way they can be downloaded much more easily than before. I should point out that the link above is a referral, in that if you start using it I get extra storage space (as do you, apparently). But what's important is, all those downloadable RTF format files dotted around WSOD will now actually work. Or ... they should.

The first review for Nova War is in, and Mark Chitty likes it:

"Nova War is a great example of intelligent and thoughtful space opera that delivers a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. As the second book in a series it builds very successfully on the foundation laid in Stealing Light and also gives plenty to carry through to the next book (which I just can't wait for!). For an enthralling widescreen space opera with characters and aliens that are both interesting and engrossing this is the books to read. Very highly recommended."

I finished the copy-edits on Empire of Light last night. Always an interesting process, in the 'Oh my GOD, how did I miss that!?' sense of 'interesting'. But hopefully I've caught every last instance of Author Shooting Self In Foot and sent it spinning into limbo. In the meantime, working on the outline for The Array, investigating the idea of trying to do a bit of freelance magazine writing (worth a shot), and wondering whether there's any steam in the idea of setting another book in the Stealing Light universe, but unrelated to the three previous books. Maybe, maybe not.

Talking of non-fiction writing: Martin Lewis has put together a pamphlet for the British Science Fiction Association called 'Sf Writers On SF Films: From Akira to Zardoz'. I wrote the 'Zardoz' piece, in which I once again attempt to convince the world that Zardoz is really rather good, actually, and deserving of your attention, and you in the back - stop snickering about Sean Connery in thigh-length leather boots and a bright red loincloth. It's a f**k of a lot better at generating a sense of the Other than Battlestar Galactica with it's 'everyone in the universe will wear business suits just like us' sartorial lunacy. I've also got a short article coming up in Sci Fi Now magazine, where I talk about the recent poll for the cover of Empire of Light.

Just a couple of days until the Nova War hardback is out, although I suspect it's possible one or two copies may already have crept onto bookshelves around the UK.


New Design

All right, that's the new-look template up. You'll also find a new short story added on the right - well, not exactly new, since it was first published in Interzone in 1994, but new to the blog anyway. I've also placed links to excerpts for all the books now, and all *should* work. But if some things still manage to go wrong, I won't be too surprised. I've also included in each excerpt page a download link for a .rtf file. This is a text file that should be readable on just about any computer in existence. It had been my intention to put up various flavours of ebook format - .lit, epub, Sony and the like - but trying to get it right was starting to take up way too much of my time. If you own a Sony Reader or a Kindle or some such, you probably already have a way to convert basic 'rtf' files into other formats, should you so choose. If you don't, then download Calibre, a freeware ebook library and conversion program I've often found extremely useful. You can get it for Mac, PC and even, so I believe, Linux. If you happen to convert one of the excerpts or stories and are feeling charitable, you could always email me a copy and I'll put it up here.

I was a wee bit nervous about putting up an older short story like Touched by an Angel since I think my writing has improved immeasurably since then, but as its author I'm probably inclined to be perhaps too picky about it. It did make Gardner Dozois' 'recommended reading' list in the Year's Best SF, so it does have its merits.

(Edit: Well, what do you know, the download links for the .rtf files don't work. Sigh. I'll get them sorted, but I'm bang in the middle of the line-edits for Empire of Light. So that'll get sorted out ... let's say, soonish.)


The jig's up

Guess it's time to move on to quantum foam. Especially the extra bubbly kind with added micro-singularities.

(from The Onion)


Since people have been asking, rest assured that despite the images of Taiwan while Typhoon Morakot passed over it, I remain entirely unaffected by it. I wasn't even aware of some of the news since we don't have a TV. Not a mudslide or a collapsing hotel in sight from where I live. I'm nearly bang in the middle of a skyscraper-dominated city - Taipei - and although I'm not so far from a river, there's a dirty great motorway between me and it, and the elevator is built on a bank of ground about twenty feet high. The stuff about mudslides and the rest is the kind of thing that, as far as I know, only affected isolated villages in mountainous areas hundreds of miles from where I am which happen to be uniquely vulnerable.

That said, things do shut down here whenever a typhoon is on its way. A couple of public services shut down and quite a few businesses, so it's a bit like a Bank Holiday back home. It rains and it gets very, very, very, very windy. This typhoon in terms of my own personal experience was much like any other I've experienced since I got here in that it was, er, weirdly fun the few times we ventured out.. Not fun for people getting washed away by mud, certainly, but that's not something I have to worry about where I am. The only thing that's freaked me out since I got here are the earthquakes, and I'm kind of used to them now.